Although no one will ever equate the athleticism needed to play golf with, say, football, there is still a certain level of preparedness required to maximize potential and avoid injuries. Since I’ve qualified for my AARP card a few years ago, my 20 handicap golf swing has degraded further, the aches and pains are a bit more pronounced and several close friends and golf buddies have seen their annual rounds curtailed by chronic back problems. As we transition into the 2014 golf season, I consulted with a trio of fitness experts to discuss the steps that golfers can take to reduce the risk of injuries at the start of, and throughout the season.
“Always try to be 1-inch taller,” recommended Physical Therapist Betsy Voyles, owner of FitGolf Performance Center in Chicago. “If you sit slouched over a desk all day, then you will not miraculously have perfect posture when you step up to the 1st tee. Being 1-inch taller will decrease pressure on the discs and ligaments, improve lower and upper core muscle strength, and allow the hip joints to rotate properly, which will provide more power and stability through impact of the swing and reduce the risk of injury.” She acknowledges that although this is a seemingly simple concept, it can be quite challenging, but assures that “being diligent about the 1-inch concept for two weeks will become a habit.”
Tim Filippini, Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine at Lemont Natural Healthcare, stressed incorporating Dynamic Stretching into your pre-game warmup routine. “Dynamic stretches combine static stretches with movement, which helps increase the blood flow to the muscles. So for example, when stretching your quadriceps, continue into a forward lunge motion, which will accelerate the activation of your quads.” He also stressed the importance of exercising the oblique muscles of the abdomen. “Abdominal obliques are a key contributor to the rotation of the swing, so stimulating these muscles will help provide the flexibility and stability needed to perform the swing properly.”
Dynamic Stretching was also emphasized by Lark Welch, Professor of Athletic Training at Lewis University in Romeoville. “Flexibility in the shoulders, hips and back are critical. Dynamic stretches (moving thru specific motions) focused on these areas will contribute to successfully completing the golf swing, and should be done in your practicing for the game, and some prior to your round.” Welch equally focused on what’s done after golf. “Static (held) stretches should also be performed after golfing, and if there is any pain, one should ice the affected area for 20 minutes. If the pain persists for an extended period of time, or seems to be more than just normal muscle soreness, go see your physician for further evaluation and treatment.”
Some of the simpler suggestions provided scored high on my common sense-o-meter, but are admittedly not practices that I follow on a regular basis. “The golf swing places an enormous amount of torque on the back, and the longer the club the higher the torque, so never go to the driving range and immediately use the driver,” implored Dr. Filippini. “Start out with a shorter club like an 8-iron and gradually move up to the woods. This will save your back from unnecessary stress and trauma before being properly warmed up.” Ms. Welch added, “Just walk! Simply walking 2 to 3 times a week in one to two-mile increments will increase cardiovascular and overall muscle endurance.” And for a game that was designed for walking, this is appropriate advice indeed!
Betsy Voyles, MSPT is the owner of FitGolf Performance Center of Chicago www.fitgolfchicago.com
Dr. Tim Filippini is the resident chiropractor at Lemont Natural Healthcare in Lemont www.lemontnaturalhealthcare.com
Lark Welch, MS, ATC, CSCS is an Assistant Professor in the Athletic Training Education Program at Lewis University, and an Athletic Trainer at Naperville North HS