Meryle Richman, PT, DPT, MS, Senior Director of Ivyrehab Briarcliff and Jefferson Valley
“Golf is a game now enjoyed by over 29.3 million golfers of all ages, shapes, and levels of physical fitness”. Although most people would agree that golf is not a rigorous sport, there is a wide range of musculoskeletal ailments associated with the full golf swing. Contrary to the slow nature of the game, the explosive action of the full swing places significant stress on shoulder, elbow, and wrist joints as well as producing high torque forces on the low back and hip structures.
Golfers of all levels could benefit from an effective golf-training program that serves a dual purpose of improving performance and reducing the risk for injury. Golfers have learned that it is much easier to make a mechanically correct swing when the body is strong and flexible. Golf fitness should include three major components: (1) maintaining and improving flexibility, (2) improving golf specific strength, and (3) improving postural balance and stability.
Flexibility & Strengthening Exercises:
Pre-season is a good time to begin a generalized stretching and strengthening program for your neck, back and extremities. For example, increasing joint flexibility can lengthen your swing; thus increasing the club head speed and result in longer shots. Increasing golf specific muscle strength requires an integrated, multi-joint strengthening program to allow for coordinated actions of major muscle groups of different body segments. The golf swing can also inherently create postural imbalances, which can lead to injury.
The most common injuries are discussed with stretching and exercise tips can help to prevent or reduce pain and/or injuries resulting from the repetitive nature of the golf swing coupled with the high velocity forces:
(1) Medial epicondylitis, or “golfer’s elbow”:
This ailment involves increased inflammation and pain on the inside of the right elbow (for right-handed golfers). Exercise Tip: A proper conditioning program will include wrist flexion/extension and supination/pronation (rotation of wrist clockwise and counter-clockwise) strengthening and stretching.
(2) Shoulder tendonitis, or “rotator cuff tendonitis”:
This can be a chronic problem for those with tight shoulder internal/external rotators and weak shoulder girdle stabilizers. Exercise Tip: The golfer who has concentrated his efforts in developing maximum strength and flexibility of the levator scapulae, rhomboids, sternocleidomastoid, rotator cuff muscles, and trapezius muscles will enjoy the greatest success.
(3) Low back pain:
This can affect most golfers at one time or another. The golf swing combines “unnatural” spinal movements of bending forward, bending backward, bending sideways, and rotating. Exercise Tip: A preventative-conditioning program will incorporate multi-directional stretching and strengthening 2-3 times a week with an 8-minute warm-up routine before playing. For example, a before round warm-up exercise routine would include knee to chest, modified squats, back extensions, shoulder stretch, and low back/neck rotations and sidebands. All exercises would be done in sets of five performed in a smooth, controlled manner.
(4) Neck Pain:
One important aspect often overlooked when striving for the pain free neck is unrestricted cervical spine rotation. The ability to “retract” your neck (or slightly tucking your chin) and fully rotate your chin to the left is necessary to achieve a good “top of back swing position” (for the right-handed golfer). Any limitation in flexibility in either plane of motion can cause muscle strain/or nerve pinching. The shearing and rotational stresses occurring at the lower neck at the top of backswing will be minimized with good muscle flexibility. Exercise Tip: Gentle rotation and side bending neck stretches done two times daily for duration of twenty seconds each will help eliminate pain and restriction.
Another reason for neck pain is mechanical in nature, often caused by overstretching of ligaments due to postural stresses. The golfer who spends countless hours practicing with the head in a forward, protruded position will always be at high risk to develop cervical (neck) pain. The walker versus the cart rider has far greater neck support as the postural muscles hold the head directly over the vertebral column, receiving maximum muscle support. The golf cart rider sits and relaxes in a cart approximately 75 times during a round. Exercise Tip: To avoid and minimize the forward head position, slightly tuck the chin and do this 2-3 times and hold for several seconds, while sitting in the golf cart.
Posture awareness and physical preparedness are key elements to pain free golf. If you have questions concerning screening examination or treatment of golf-related injuries feel free to contact our office and speak to a physical therapist.
Call to set up a free appointment if you would like to attend this free Golf Fitness Screening located inside Ivyrehab Briarcliff at (914)762-2222. In addition, if you would like to be seen right away for an injury or chronic pain under Direct Access (no prescription required), contact us at Ivyrehab Briarcliff at (914) 762-2222; or Ivyrehab Jefferson Valley at (914) 245-8807. You can also visit our website at www.ivyrehab.com.
Ivyrehab accepts most insurance plans (which our office obtains pre-approval from your insurance carrier) and will submit your office visit treatments for payment. You will be responsible for your co-payment depending on your particular insurance policy.
With one-on-one care this permits the therapist to construct a personalized program for the individual. After all, when it comes to rehabilitation, “it’s all about the people”.
2) Batt, M., A Survey of Golf Injuries, British Journal of Sports Medicine 63-65, 1992