“Its all In The Hips” By Larry Justin “LJ” Georgetti, DPT
Any aging golfer can count on one of his/her friend’s bailing on an eight o-clock tee time due to “back pain”. Range of motion and strength of the whole body are essential when building a strong foundation to a healthy golf swing. I believe that the abnormalities in swing mechanics and mobility limitations in the hips/spine will cause restrictions in how one develops force in the golf swing. These abnormalities over time will result in dysfunction and eventually pain.
The golf swing has many variables, as does the human body. However, one thing remains consistent throughout all golf swings: energy must be delivered to a stationary golf ball in order to move it a desired distance. In the most efficient swings, energy is generated by the lower extremities via the ground. How this energy is gained, stored and eventually transmitted are exactly where the variables begin to differentiate between professional and recreational golfers. A golfer utilizes his/her lower extremity to generate force through the ground and eventually to the ball at impact. It is worth noting that the musculature surrounding the hips, known as the “glutes”, are the strongest in the body. These are the ones responsible for getting us up out of a chair and keeping us erect when walking. Problems arise when we do not train and utilize these muscles appropriately. As my colleague, Chris Hanson, previously discussed, the hip and the lumbar spine are closely related in the golf swing. If dysfunction arises in one, the other will suffer.
By Christopher C. Hanson, PT, MPT, DMT, OCS, FAAOMPT
Most golfers are weekend warriors and if there is extra time in anyone’s schedule for golf activities, more times than not this is allocated to swing training. As the last few articles have discussed, physical fitness is equally important. In order to have a world class swing, the function of one’s musculoskeletal system also needs to be equipped. Golf is a sport that requires strength, power, coordination and mobility; no one of these is more important than the other. This weekly dive into the physical care of a golfer’s body will discuss the importance of hip mobility and stability in all golfers.
In the golf community the importance of spinal mobility and strength is well documented. There have been numerous social media campaigns since the start of this golf season showing new creative ways to improve spinal mobility and strength. However, absent from these posts have been ways to improve hip strength and mobility; negating altogether the connection between the hip and the spine.
The hip and the spine are intricately related. If one has movement issues in one area, it can transmit increased forces along the kinetic (movement) chain. In the presence of hip mobility issues the body increases motion in other joints. The body is almost too good at this compensation and creating more (too much) movement in order to allow someone to function in a way that seems correct. In the presence of limited hip mobility there may be an excessive forces through the lumbar spine. This can happen at different points in the swing. Limited hip mobility can create issues in the back swing, during the initiation of swing and during the follow through. This also relates to other sporting activities as well.
Did you know that of all the sports the most injuries to the hand and wrist occur in golf?
Hand injuries occur in about 10% of professional and 20% in the amateur golfers. The incidence may be explained by the anatomic and mechanical complexity of the wrist and hand. Most of the injuries occur in the lead wrist and hand associated with overuse, golf swing faults and mechanics and trauma.
Overuse injuries are primarily tendonitis or tenosynovitis such as deQuervains tenosynovitis (inflammation of tendons on the thumb side of the wrist). Overuse injuries often occur in the amateur at the beginning of the golf season, when the golfer is not appropriately physically prepared to strike the golf ball. For example, as the golf season approaches it’s off to the driving range hitting a large bucket of balls one after another without appropriate warm up and rest between swings. Watch a professional warm up hitting golf balls notice, that between each swing, they stop, analyze the ball flight, divot etc. and discuss it with their caddy or coach. The take home message is that the amateur hits too many golf balls to quickly and too often. Overuse also occurs due to a lack of physical conditioning for their entire body, not just the upper extremity. The power and the ability to strike the golf ball correctly comes from the use of the powerful core and lower extremity muscles. If the lower body does not initiate the swing sequence correctly this can cause changes in the upper body swing mechanics placing the wrist and hand at risk. Swing faults of “Casting, Scooping, Chicken Winging and Over the Top” can contribute to wrist and hand injuries.
Summer is here and I am sure you prepared your golf bag. But how are your rotator cuffs, hip joints and spinal discs?
If you have not been preparing for the past four weeks, then they are not ready for that first tee giant swing to impress the foursome. You are also at prime potential for injury and poor performance. But don’t fret: it’s never too late to ready the body.
Strength and conditioning coaches use what is called periodization to prepare athletes. This breaks down the year into three main categories: Offseason, preseason and in season.
Periodization is designed so the athlete has time to work on recovery and weak areas of performance in the offseason, ramp up to peak form and power during preseason and maximize performance during the season. Golfers are power athletes with swings taking as little as 2 seconds. So golfers should be training for power, which involves strength and speed. And they should be reaching their maximal potential in the heart of summer. That means preseason is spring and offseason winter.
Offseason is when the golfer must take some time and let the repetitive motions stop so the body can heal.
Have a spa day or two to work out the byproducts that build inside the muscles and connective tissue during the season. Sample a yoga class or stretch class to lengthen the muscles that tightened up playing all summer and fall. After a few weeks of rest, the remainder of the offseason should be spent working on the skills for which you are weakest. If you want more distance on your drives, then build strength in your legs and core. Use exercises such as squats and step-ups, pull-ups and push-ups to build basic strength.