Fore! Low Back Pain in Golf

Whether it’s the sunny skies we have seen in late March, the recently re-crowned #1 player in the world wearing ‘Sunday-Red’, or the near approaching 1st major of the season on the PGA Tour, you must be getting excited for the beginning of the golf season!

Research has shown that golf injuries do occur at high frequencies.  To no surprise, the number 1 injury associated with the game of golf is Low Back Pain.  Statistics show that 1 out of 2 golfers will experience some type of low-back-pain or injury during their playing career. Why is this so prevalent, you might ask?  The main reasons include a combination of the following:

  • Bodily physical dysfunction/limitations
  • Poor swing biomechanics
  • Overuse or excessive practice
  • No regular customized exercise program
  • Poor nutrition/hydration
  • Improper club fitting

What are some of the bodily causes to low back pain in golfers?

Limited flexibility of the trunk/thoracic spine
Poor ‘core’ muscle strength and endurance
Limited hip mobility

What are the most common lower back injury- inducing swing mechanics?

S-posture – a term given to describe too much curvature in the lower spine at the address position

Early Extension – the term used to describe the thrusting of the lower-body toward the ball at impact.

Reverse Spine Angle – refers to the backward bending of the spine as a player reaches the top of their backswing

The common mechanism to injury in all 3 scenarios described above is an increased torque and compression combined with rotational-stress to the lower back during an ‘extended’ or backward bending position!

So…Before you start heading to the driving range to hit a bucket of balls with your new titanium driver, here are some strategies to prevent a back injury during this season.  These suggestions are progressive, meaning the earlier the stage of prevention, the much easier to implement.

Stage 1 (simple remedies)

  • Get in shape prior to the season; exercising regularly keeps your body and nervous system active and moving
  • Stretch & strengthen your ‘golf’ muscles; (abdominals/core, hips, trunk, shoulders, elbows, wrists)
  • Warm-up prior to playing – minimum of 15 minutes
  • Consider using a push-cart vs. carrying your clubs
  • Have your golf clubs fitted to you

Stage 2 (subtle technique modifications at address)

  • Position your knees above the balls of your feet and turn both hips ‘out’ approximately 25-30 degrees.
  • Pre-engage your ‘core muscles’ before initiating the back-swing/

Stage 3 (technique changes at the finish position)

  • Avoid excessive extension (backward bending) or side bending.

Stage 4 (technique changes during the backswing)

  • Focus on turning vs hip ‘sliding’.  This may be inhibited by a steeper swing plane, a reverse-pivot weight transfer and weak core/hip muscles.

Stage 5 (changing your swing style)

  • Try shortening your swing, using longer shafted clubs

Since low back pain and other golf related injuries are the result of poor technique, taking a lesson from a certified golf professional can be an important 1st step towards injury prevention.  If you already have an injury which originated or is aggravated by golf, see a physiotherapist that is experienced in golf biomechanics and can provide personalized advice on appropriate treatment solutions for the specific problems.

 

Written By:

Steve Wong
Registered Physiotherapist
Partner – Treloar Phyiotherapy Kerrisdale
Certified Titleist Professional Institute (TPI) Level II Medical Professional
Certified FITforeGolf