It’s that time of year again golfers!
The snow is finally melting in town and we’re all thinking about shaking the winter rust off of our game. Several local driving ranges have opened and soon the courses will too. I’d like to offer some food for thought as we get this season going (albeit a little later than we all had hoped). Most of us here in Spokane spend five months or more without touching a club. That’s an awfully long time for our flexibility and conditioning of golf specific muscles to suffer. A recent study suggests that up to 41% of amateur golfers will experience some type of golf related injury annually. More than 1/3rd of these injuries are to the lower back, with the remainder involving primarily the upper extremity. The overwhelming majority of these injuries can be blamed on overuse, lack of flexibility and swing faults. These statistics should be a little frightening to all of us that love the game, but there is good news! Studies report that a simple warm-up done consistently can reduce injury rates by 50% or more. I’ll address 3 topics that I believe can really help reduce injuries amongst amateur golfers. We’ll discuss the importance of hip strength and mobility, thoracic spine mobility and proper warm up.
Hip Strength and Mobility:
Our hips play a critical role in the golf swing. Not only are they a huge source of our power, but dysfunction in the hips during the golf swing really increases the potential for injury to the low back. A quick overview of the hips during the golf swing: At the top of the backswing the right hip is maximally internally rotated and the left hip is externally rotated (for the right-handed player). This process reverses on the downswing where the left hip is maximally internally rotated while the right hip externally rotates. Deficits in hip mobility while shortening our turn, decrease power, increase the likelihood of swing faults and increase the potential for injury to the low back. Here’s a simple test to find out how your hip rotation measures up!
If you’ve tested yourself and are concerned with the results, here are some good stretches to help address both internal and external rotation of the hip:
Strength in our hip stabilizers and gluts are critical. A recent study shows that low handicap players have more than 10% greater gluteal strength relative to bodyweight compared with high handicap counterparts. If your hip muscles have been neglected this offseason, here are some ideas to get you going:
Forward T/single leg RDL
Thoracic Spine Mobility:
Another stubborn spot – the thoracic spine (our mid back). This area of the spine is capable of tremendous mobility and can contribute to a nice full turn in the golf swing. However, it’ also tends to become very stiff and can then be a source of limitation in our swing, creating a lot of extra stress of the low back and even the shoulders. Through a proper mobility program for the thoracic spine, we can improve our turn and decrease injury risk. Here’s a quick test you can do at home to check your thoracic rotation:
Here are some simple exercises to help with motion in the thoracic spine:
Thoracic Rotation Quadruped
In the last two sections, we’ve talked about the importance of the hips and thoracic spine in the golf swing. The final topic for the month of April will involve how to execute a proper warm up. Unfortunately, too many of us arrive at the course in a rush with just a few minutes before we head to the first tee. Often this leaves only enough time to hurry through a few shoddy swings and a minute or two on the practice green. Its been shown that an adequate warm-up has several benefits. First, we can decrease our injury potential by half! Second, we have the ability to create additional distance – and who doesn’t want that? A recent study shows a 2 mph bump in clubhead speed and 6-yard boost in distance off the tee just by warming up properly! Here are some ideas for a good warm up.
Try to arrive 45 minutes (at least) before your tee time. This allows you 10-15 minutes to warm up properly before hitting range balls or putting
5-minute brisk walk to increase cardiovascular output and warm up important lower body muscles. Often this could be accomplished walking from parking lot to the driving range
New data suggests dynamic stretching is more applicable for golfers so we can move away from those traditional static stretches held for 30 seconds each
Example of a dynamic warm-up:
Trunk rotations from set up position – start slow and gradually increase speed continuing for 30 seconds
Counterbalance squat – 12 reps
Side lunge – 12 reps each side
Shoulder blade retractions – pull the band apart for 30 seconds
Lunge and rotate – 6 reps each
Now would be the time to hit a few balls. Start with a dozen or so soft wedge shots progressing through short, mid and long irons finishing with just a few balls with hybrids, fairway woods, and the driver.
Most importantly – go enjoy your round!