Back injuries are the bane of a golfer’s existence. They are the most common golf injury, mostly due to overuse. The rotational forces on the back from the golf swing are equal to more than eight times normal body weight and can affect the back’s bones, discs, ligaments and muscles. The amateur golfer who plays sporadically without proper warm-up and with poor swing mechanics can suffer muscle strains, disc problems and back joint (facet joint) problems.
Four phases of a golf swing
- Ball strike
During the typical golf swing, the lumbar spine undergoes a variety of forces including compression and rotation.
Classic vs. modern swing
The golf swing itself can lead to back problems. In the Classic swing the backswing follows a flat swing plane, with hips rotating almost as much as the shoulders. On the follow through, the golfer’s body ends up in a straight up-and-down “I” position.
The Modern swing relies on a lightly coiled body to store power for maximum club head speed at impact. This swing ends with the golfer’s body in a reverse “C” position with hands high and right shoulder lower than the left shoulder. It’s more powerful, but much more stressful on the back.
If you are prone to back problems, make sure you have the proper swing mechanics to prevent problems by consulting with a golf professional. If you have chronic back problems, learning the Classic swing will often be all you need for relief.
You can reduce this stress and prevent back injuries by:
- Rotating the shoulder and hip about the same amount during the backswing
- Keeping the spine vertical (perpendicular to the ground) during the follow-through (and avoiding hyperextension of the spine).
Additional Tips for Preventing Golf Injuries
Get adequate rest
Because many advanced golfers spend hours hitting balls on the practice tee and additional hours on the course, the chance of overuse injuries to the shoulder and elbow are increased.
Listen to your body
To avoid overuse injuries, decrease your play time at the first sign of aches and pains.
This is a process of creating a mental image or intention, of what you want to happen or to feel.
Learn core conditioning exercises
Develop an overall conditioning programme that emphasises core strength in the back, torso and shoulder, a Physiotherapist can help you design an appropriate programme.
At a minimum, get a 10-minute walk or perform the core strength routine as a warm up.
* This advice in general and may not be suitable for you. If you are experiencing back pain and/or have issues following any of these suggestions STOP and seek advice from a medical professional i.e. your Doctor of Physiotherapist.*
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Summary: Golf – play without back pain