People often think of golf as an easy sport, but my experience as a Physiotherapist says otherwise. Around this time of year, we see a lot of clients return to us with golfing injuries, coinciding with their return to the sport in the summer months. Not only can the sport be psychologically destructive, but it can test our physical vulnerabilities too.
The golf swing is a terrifically complex movement, involving a huge amount of pelvic control, core stability, co-ordinated weight transference, thoracic spine rotation and shoulder rotation. This leaves a lot of room for error. Granted, nobody’s swing is the exact same; there are certain areas of the body which must move well to be able to ping the ball straight down the fairway.
As Physiotherapists, we find when people are stiff in certain areas, they will compensate with an incorrect movement elsewhere. If you lack adequate movement through your mid-spine, your swing will mostly be dominated by the shoulders and hips. This can often result in niggly pains in these areas, or in more drastic cases more intense pain and spasm in the spine. Likewise, it may result in an inefficient swing or poor contact with the golf ball.
Other common golfing injuries include elbow pain, commonly referred to as golfers elbow. Often this is contributed to by excessively gripping the club or relying too much on your wrists to generate force through your swing, likely due to stiff or weak shoulders. At Platinum Physiotherapy, we enjoy getting the bottom of these problems and figuring out all of the little reasons as to WHY you have this pain, and not just WHERE you have it.
The hips are pivotal for the success of a golf swing. Your hips require a certain amount of rotation to be able to follow through with your swing, as your femur (thigh bone) rotates inwardly in your hip joint. Without this movement, it may be difficult to generate power through the ball and often by performing the right stretches for a couple of weeks; you can improve your swing massively. Alternatively, if you have hip arthritis or have a joint injury, you may need to work on surrounding areas to try to give you enough space in the joint to be able to complete the pattern.
Time on your feet is also very important! Four or five hours on a golf course (on a very good day for me) is a lot of steps and stopping and starting. Most of us have underlying pains which can often become aggravated when we increase our activity levels. Commonly we hear complaints of plantar fasciitis, tendinopathies and knee and hip pain after resuming golf. This can usually be remedied with an individually tailored exercise programme from one of our physiotherapists.
Similarly our Reformer Pilates classes or individual Clinical Pilates Classes address these issues, providing us with strength and flexibility in the different planes of movement that allow us to move better through our golf swings, while increasing our baseline levels of strength so that we can easily get through a game of golf without aggravating any of our vulnerable tissues. They also target the hips and pelvis, freeing up additional movement and improving body awareness and control with a repertoire of dynamic and resisted exercises, across a range of levels and difficulties. By tailoring our individual Clinical Pilates classes towards golf movements, we hope to see the improvements on the golf course within a matter of weeks.
It is incredibly important for us to keep our clients active and involved in the sports or teams that they love. If you feel your pain or discomfort is preventing you from getting out onto the golf course or affecting your performance on the fairway, please get in touch, and we can discuss how we can improve your pain, and your golfing performance.
By Chartered Physiotherapist at Platinum Physiotherapy, Liam Curran