Did you know?
- Low back pain is the number one injury sustained by golfers. The impact and follow-through phases of the golf swing account for the most injuries.
- The modern swing, separating the hips and shoulders as much as possible during the backswing (X-factor), gains more power and finishes in lumbar hyperextension, increasing pressure on the spine.
- The golf swing produces a large load on the spine, particularly during the downswing to follow-through. This intense load can strain muscles, injure facet joints and lumbar discs, and cause spondylosis.
- With lower back pain, golfers have up to half trunk flexion velocity during the downswing. Due to the length of the golf club, even small variations in movement are amplified resulting in large changes in club-head trajectory and speed, which can largely affect performance.
- The modern swing is most commonly taught today because the X-factor creates optimal power. It has higher activation of erector spinae (the muscles that extend the spine), especially in the follow-through phase. A golfer who uses the modern swing and has a history of low back pain is likely to have pain reoccur because of his or her swing and the body’s inability to adapt to the increased erector spinae demand.
- How to prevent or avoid reoccurrence of back pain:
- Visit an Osteopath who understands golf injuries, to assess and address the biomechanical underlying causes of your pain and to optimize functional control.
- Core strengthening is essential in preventing injury in the golf swing. Learn how to activate the diaphragm, pelvic floor, and abdominals is central to stabilization of the trunk during breathing and postural activity. Reformer Pilates is an excellent method to improve core stability. Numerous professional Golfers have already adopted Pilates as a way to improve their game.
- Alongside addressing core instability and weakness, shoulder and shoulder blade mobility, thoracic rotation/extension, hip mobility/stability, ankle mobility, balance, and shoulder deceleration control all should be addressed as well.
- Warm up gradually for at least 15 minutes before playing and stretch the tight muscles after your game.
- Adopt an alternative swing: classic swing, hybrid swing (neutral spine during finish, thereby protecting lumbar facets) or shorter swing.
- Push your cart instead of pulling.
- Carry your golf bag on both shoulders (dual backpack strap distributes the clubs more evenly across both shoulders).
- Reduce bodyweight (increased bodyweight is a significant risk factor for low back pain among golfers) if you are overweight.
By Francois Naef, Osteopath
References: Finn, C. (2013). Rehabilitation of low back pain in golfers: from diagnosis to return to sport. Sports Health, 5(4): 313-319.