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Golf - Part 2: Golf and the Risk of Low Back Injury

Low back pain is the most common injury that golfers sustain (34.5% of all golf injuries). The golf swing creates significant compression, shearing, rotation and side-bending forces in the spine and this is repeated many times during a round of golf.  It has been reported that the compressive forces can be up to 8 times body weight at the moment of impact.  As well, golf is an asymmetrical sport.  One side of the body repeatedly does one motion while the other side of the body does the opposite motion.  This can create muscle imbalances over time. The golf swing requires a lot of spinal rotation, and if the golfer does not have adequate flexibility, it can result in strain of the muscles or joints of the spine.  An effective golf swing is a chain of events, transferring energy from one part of the body to the next.  If performed and timed ideally, this chain of events generates a greater amount of force.  However, if one link in this chain has a problem, it can create potential for injury.  For example if one area lacks flexibility, such as the hips, then that may put more force through the lumbar spine as a compensation, increasing the risk of injury to the lumbar spine.  Similarly, the muscles of the hips should generate a lot of the force in a golf swing.  If weak, the low back or shoulders may try to compensate and result in an overuse injury.  If muscles are not conditioned, then they are also less able to withstand the high forces generated in the golf swing making them susceptible to injury.  Pilates is an exercise method that can improve body alignment, muscle balance, strength and flexibility, potentially reducing the risk of injury.  The next blog, “Golf Part III: Pilates Exercises to Improve Golf Performance and Reduce Injuries” will give examples of Pilates exercises especially suited for golfers.

 

References:

  1. Corey K, Corey P. Create a Pilates conditioning program for golfers: This conditioning program can reduce the risk of injuries, improve a golf swing and enhance balance and stability. IDEA Fitness Journal. Sept 2006, 3(8):56-64.

  2. Davies C, DiSaia V. Generate speed and power with each swing. Excerpt from Golf Anatomy. Available at: http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/generate-speed-and-power-with-each-swing

  3. Davies C, DiSaia V. Strength is important for fatigue free golf. Excerpt from Golf Anatomy. Available at: http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/strength-is-important-for-fatigue-free-golf-

  4. Gluck G, Bendo J, Spivak J. The lumbar spine and low back pain in golf: a literature review of swing biomechanics and injury prevention. Spine J. 2008;8(5):778-788.

  5. Reed J, Wadsworth L. Lower back pain in golf: a review. Current Sports Medicine Reports [serial online]. 2010;9(1):57-59. Available from: MEDLINE, Ipswich, MA. Accessed July 17, 2018.

 

Matt Seltzer