What you can do to start playing your best game ‘ever’
As a Titleist golf fitness coach, I definitely have an appreciation for the game of golf given I work with amateur and professional golfer’s seven days a week. As I tell my golfers when you spend numerous hours week after week on the fairway, at some point in your life, if you are an avid golfer, you will probably suffer from a golf injury. Becoming aware of the potential problems, associated treatment strategies as well as being proactive and prevention oriented will keep you in play.
To the untrained eye, a golf swing can look rather innocuous. Yet, there is an actual sequence to the body movement required to hit a golf ball efficiently and consistently. This sequence of motor skills involves strength, power, balance, and flexibility. Additional issues for the golfer involve those of stamina and the level of endurance to withstand 9 to 18 holes of game.
Golf injuries can occur for a multitude of reasons ranging from losing one’s footing or balance during the swing, improper swing mechanics, or hitting a ball off an uneven surface. Because a golf swing involves the entire body from the ground up, any part of the body can be injured in the course of play. Most golf related injuries are a result of poor mechanics and overuse.
A structured golf related fitness and exercise program is the first step in the prevention of golf injuries. TPI suggests players should work with golf professionals in order to learn swing techniques and a fitness professional to improve movement patterns, body mechanics, strength, power, balance, flexibility and agility. Bottom line, poor swing mechanics can and will increase the risk of injury. Even good mechanics over time create overuse and potential injury.
Regardless of your level of expertise in golf every player should schedule a swing screen analysis with their golf professional and a golf fitness and movement pattern screen with their TPI fitness coach.
Note: The golf swing screening analyzes a player’s swing biomechanics, physical fitness, movement quality, current health, and medical history to provide an individualized and comprehensive plan. This focus on mechanics can help reduce the risk of future injury, and may even decrease or maintain a golfer’s handicap. The screening can also identify faulty movement patterns, such as altered stability and mobility problems, and provide a plan to correct these and other golf swing impairments.
Let’s talk about injury! The benefits of playing golf outweigh the risks associated with golf. Virtually all studies investigating the relationship between golf and health conclude that it has a positive effect on both physical and mental health and even helps increase longevity. To truly benefit from playing the game, however, it is of utmost importance to not underestimate the risk of injury which is much more common and potentially more severe than most people think.
The data reveals that the risk of injuryamong amateur golfers has an incidence rate hovering around 15.8% to 40.9% on an annual basis, while the lifetime incidence of injury in amateur’s ranges from 25.2% to 67.7%. In professionals, the incidence rates are even higher: 31% to 90% annually and 31% to 88.5% over a lifetime due to the high level of play volume and much higher practice time. There are lots of articles on how to improve your golfing skills yet relatively few on how to stay safe and reduce the risk of injury while enjoying the game of golf. When you consider that almost 7 in 10 amateurs and 9 in 10 professionals will suffer a golf-related injury at least once in a lifetime, as a TPI golf strength and conditioning coach I believe that the issue should receive more attention than it currently does.
Most of my golfing clients will visit their internist or family physician as the first step in the management of acute or chronic pain, but unfortunately those highly qualified to work in the area of chronic illness probably are not the best choice for assessing, diagnosing and prescribing a plan to overcome an injury. When my golf client meet with a regular medical practitioner the prescription will be; stretch more, just rest the muscle from physical activities for a designated number of days (which is obituary but conservative), ice daily, and take anti-inflammatories. Relying on a general practitioner for injury advice can be compared to talking with your dermatologist about a fever. When dealing with any kind of sports related or overuses injury, there are far better options for assessment, diagnosis and rehabilitation. Seek out medical professionals that specialize in golf related sport injuries.
Managing inflammation, applying ice and heat, micro needling, acupuncture, cupping, avoiding loading the muscle with weight basically means the practitioner is focusing on the symptoms rather than assessing the cause. All treatment strategies will provide the golfer with a short-term relief yet will do little to help prevent the future reoccurrence of the problem when returning to normal activity and required movement patterns. When working with my golfers that have not been golfing or have been in physical therapy for a couple weeks do to a nagging injury; I reassess their movement patterns then focus on helping them build a greater tolerance and conditioning level than was present prior to the injury expressing itself. This approach helps my golfers to prevent the issue from recurring when they return to the stress of playing golf.
As a TPI Fitness coach you have two choices when you get injured:
Focus on a gentle approach that retrains the site of the injury and surrounding areas in order to improve range, strength, power, and endurance.
Lay off most activities that seem to irritate the site of the injury, leading to detraining and weakening the area, losing range, strength, power, and endurance.
In my training sessions, more than often clients’ say things like, “I’m getting to old and am losing my flexibility,” “At my age I need to be careful of my back,” or “My shoulders hurts every time I swing.” I ask them what have they done about it and the respond usual goes like this, “I’ve been meaning to make an appointment with my doctor,” or better yet “I have laid off golf the last 3 week and it feels allot better so I am ready to get back to training.”
RETHINKING THE RE-OCCURRENCE OF INJURY
The return of injury after a bout of rest and recovery comes down to reengaging the previous injury but now in a more deconditioned state while jumping back into the same amount of practice and play that lead up to the injury in the first place. Think about this behavior for a moment, you haven’t been playing golf in order to recover, your tolerance to the stressors associated with regular practice and play are now below the level you had prior to the injury, and now your weaker and more vulnerable to the demand imposed by golf. This is when I remind my golfers, just because you took a sabbatical from golf and you feel 100% better doesn’t mean your ready to return to your previous level physical training, practice and play.
This is when you need a structured rehabilitation and a new approach when personal training, which will help your mobility, tolerance and loading capacity. You the golfer need to rethink the reoccurrence of your injury by treating the cause of pain not the site of pain. You need to think of your body as an integration of parts that all work together. Similar to the “Chaos Effect.”
THE BETTER MINDSET
You will never be totally fixed
Instead of working through the pain, training harder to get stronger and taking an anti-inflammatory or pain pill, you need to reduce your practice and play to a more tolerable level. If this doesn’t help, you will need to reduce the amount of accumulated stress that seems to be the aggregate of the pain. Just downsize your game for a while, play 9 holes instead of 18, reduce practice times and introduce recovery days, or work on things like your short game.
In the case you injuries are persistent and ongoing, get assessed by an experienced golf specific sports medicine professional that can create a structured, progressive rehabilitation plan. This plan should be comprehensive in scope including a basic exercise assessment and how you can move from a therapeutic mindset gradually back into a strength and conditioning format. It is important to allow yourself time to learn what you need to do in order not to reinjure yourself. You don’t know what you don’t know. This is the time you need to exercise patience and follow through or your symptoms will reappear. It takes a while to extinguish the habits over time that created the injury and it will take the same amount of time to reestablish habits that will prevent future injuries. Yet, it will be virtually impossible to extinguish old behaviors permanently. Due to the way our brains are wired, the neuropathways will always house the automatic old movement patterns. Think of it like ghosts in your thinking.
Once you have gone through rehabilitation it’s time to go to the next stage of reengaging strength, power, endurance and balance. Now it’s time for a golf specific TPI Strength and Conditioning Coach. This will is your best option for creating a long- term training program. Engage in a structured TPI golf specific strength and conditioning program 2-3 times a week. This approach will vary in accordance with your practice and play throughout the year. The strength and conditioning process will gradually be initiated and customized to optimize your normal practice and play volume. In this stage you will build up to a level of conditioning that’s higher than the level you were at when the injury surfaced. If the injury site get tender or aggravated, dial it back a tad. This is the time to stimulate the recovery process and improve your mobility.
There are no quick fixes when it comes to injury. In the words of Charlie Weingroff, world-renowned expert Doctor of Physical Therapy and Human performance the formula for longevity is TRAINING = REHAB, REHAB = TRAINING. Most of my golfers think of their injuries as a one-time incident. They will show up to train with a sore shoulder, low back or forearm. This when I need to help them realize that they need a more customized overall level of conditioning to impact their ability on the green without have to deal with the reoccurrence of that nagging pain. And if the nagging pain is persistent then they need to visit with a medical professional.
If you have an insatiable appetite for golf and don’t have any injuries, this is the time to take a proactive stance to maintain a state of being injury free. A basic strength and conditioning program will give you a foot up in minimizing the probability you will have to sideline your golf game. The good news regardless of whether you’re coming back from an injury or proactively engaging in golf conditioning will result in improved strength, range of motion, more powerful swing, and more endurance during rounds of golf.