By Tim Bernacki, PT, CERT MDT
Common perception is that golf is a gentle game, enjoyed by all ages and all skill levels, and less likely to lead to injury like other sports. While golf can be enjoyed by all ages and skill levels, there is actually a lot of research showing that golfers experience A LOT of injuries. Surprising as it may seem, take a look at the following numbers: 50% of touring pros have stopped playing because of injuries, 62% of amateur golfers sustained a significant injury resulting in missed playing time, 80% of injuries at the professional level were overuse injuries. The most injured areas are the low back, shoulder and neck. Golf is not exactly gentle!
Our muscular system is designed to absorb force, initiate as well as slow down movements, control the body’s position/motions. If muscles are not effectively doing their jobs, then overuse and other injuries can occur. Equipment can only get you so far in the game of golf. Your body can get you even further. Golf research over the past 20 years has shed a lot of light on the areas of biomechanics, stability, motion, isolation and activity levels of muscles, and which exercises are most effective at not only preventing/treating injury, but improving performance. Passive treatments are not sufficient to address the loads of the golf swing- the right exercise is proven to be best.
Here are a few examples of effective golf-related exercises that can help prevent injury and improve performance:
Hip Extension on all fours:
The goal of this very effective exercise for gluteus medius strength is to keep the mild arch in the low back while slowly extending the hip. Maintain balance. Doing this with a bent knee is important. You can use ankle weights for resistance. The goal is 3 sets of 10 on each leg.
Sidelying “Sleeper Stretch” for shoulder tightness:
This stretch is performed for tightness in the back of the shoulder. Ideal shoulder blade positioning has been documented in golf research and many golfers have tightness in this area of the shoulder- resulting in altered shoulder mechanics. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and perform three times for the tight shoulder. The goal is not to touch the surface you are laying on. The goal is for symmetrical flexibility. Check both sides and stretch if you find one side to be tighter than the other.
Exercises that mimic a golf swing in theory sound like a good idea; however, these typically are only going to lead to more overuse of the swing. Swing-type exercises are also not found to be as effective in isolating and increasing the muscle activation of the key muscles that help with your swing speed as researched exercises. The best exercise program is individualized by a professional and is based on a thorough evaluation of your biomechanics.
*Photos provided by HEP2go.
Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy