Play Better Longer: Reducing Golf Related Injury
On the surface golf may look to be a slow paced low impact sport with little risk of injury. However, as many golfers have unfortunately discovered looks can be deceiving. The "Physician and Sports Medicine" Journal reports 57% to 67.5% of all golfers will sustain some type of golf related injury.
Scientifically speaking our body was not designed to swing a golf club. During the swing strong compression, shear, and torsion force is produced placing our spine, joints and muscles at a relatively high risk for injury. The golf swing is an explosive movement that demands precise coordination of muscle contraction and relaxation, postural stability, strength, balance and body awareness. That is not to say we cannot swing a golf club without these elements. The body does a great job in compensating for weakness and faulty movement. However, there is a downside to this compensation. The downside is inconsistency, loss of power, and overuse of certain muscles which often leads to muscle and joint pain and injury.
Many golfers spend hours upon hours practicing their swing with little or no time devoted to training their bodies. This type of golf preparation usually results in two things: 1. Inconsistency 2. Aches and pains
So how does the golfer reduce their risk of injury? By establishing and maintaining core strength, muscle balance and flexibility by participating in a well developed integrated exercise program. Increased muscular efficiency and flexibility allow you to increase power and consistency while drastically reducing chances of pain and injury.
Beware; all golf fitness programs are not created equal. There are many programs out there that are merely body building or general strength training routines masquerading as golf fitness programs. These programs generally focus on training specific muscles or muscle groups with little attention paid to movement. Lying flat on a bench and pushing weight off your chest or doing biceps curls that isolate one single joint movement will hardly translate to improved performance on the golf course. In fact, many of the standard "gym" exercises found in such programs further disrupt muscle balance and postural stability and can increase risk of injry.
There are other golf fitness programs out there that claim to strengthen "golf muscles" by promoting exercises that mimic the golf swing. There are two problems with this approach to golf fitness. The first problem being; there are no specific "golf muscles". It takes virtually every muscle in the body working in precise concert to complete a golf swing. The second problem is; due to the repetition necessary to master the golf swing those targeted "golf muscles" are often already over developed and over tight in relation to the rest of the body. Performing exercises that mimic the golf swing prior to establishing a strong foundation and good muscle balance will only strengthen the imbalance and lead to further inconsistency and greater chance of injury.
Look for a qualified strength and conditioning or fitness professional that has a solid understanding of not only exercise science and biomechanics, but also the physical demands of the golf swing. Increased muscular strength and efficiency will allow you to increase power and consistency while drastically reducing chances of pain and injury. Add a well developed integrated exercise routine into routine and you will not only be playing better, but you will feel better doing it.
Bill Scibetta, RN, NSCA-CPT
Bill is the founder and President of Precision Fitness - Personal Training Centers in the Charlotte, NC area and co-author of the book Play Better Longer! - Peak Performance and Injury Prevention for Golf. Bill is a licensed Registered Nurse as well as a National Strength and Conditioning Association - Certified Personal Trainer. After spending years practicing in the specialty of Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, Bill has dedicated his career to helping individuals identify and overcome obstacles that stand in the way of optimal wellness and peak physical performance.
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