Getting Golfers Back on Course
The grass may be greener for golfers who improve the technique of their swing, especially if they've been feeling sand-trapped by low back pain. Low back pain is the reason most male golfers stay off course. Golfers' low back pain has been linked to poor swing technique and the repetitive action of swings.
Researchers videotaped the swing of a 22-year-old male golfer with back pain. They used the video results to create three-dimensional images to plot markers of shoulder, hip, and spine alignment, and to monitor changes in the angles in these body regions as the golfer moved through his entire swing. To see how hard the back muscles were working during the swing, the researchers placed electrodes along the sides of the golfer's spine.
The images showed several problems in swing technique. The golfer didn't turn his hips enough during the back swing. He also tended to twist his hips more than his shoulders just before swinging the club downward. Then during the downward motion, he bent his spine too far forward and to the side because he tended to lead with his hips. The electrodes registered extra activity in the spine muscles in this part of the swing. The authors suggest that the awkward movement of the spine combined with the extra muscle activity could cause painful joint compression in the spine.
After the video sessions, the golfer received professional coaching for three months. He also continued doing a series of strengthening exercises for his abdomen and back muscles. The coach had the golfer move closer when preparing for the swing. He also taught better shoulder position. Then the coach worked on keeping shoulders and hips aligned to prepare for the downward motion of the club, and turning the hips and shoulders as a unit rather than leading with the hips.
After completing the coaching sessions, the researchers rechecked the golfer's swing. The changes in technique were dramatically different from the first time he was videotaped. Instead of twisting his hips and bending his spine in the downswing, he showed good upright alignment of hips and shoulders. This new style helped him hold his trunk steady, and the spine muscles didn't have to work as hard. The authors suggest that these changes in alignment and muscle activity might ease torsion and compression on the spine. The golfer was able to resume his sport free of pain.
The authors conclude that helping players with low back pain to modify their technique and to take part in muscle conditioning exercises might help prevent problems of back pain among golfers.
Paul N. Grimshaw and Adrian M. Biurden. Case Report: Reduction of Low Back Pain in a Professional Golfer. In Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. October 2000. Vol. 32. No. 10. Pp. 1667-1673.
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