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Tips may help golfers avoid back injuries

Mar 29, 2015 | Sports Scene

In 2007, the National Golf Foundation reported that there are 29.5 million golfers in the U.S. The World Golf Federation, on the other hand, expects there to be 55 million golfers by the year 2020. Add in the fact that low back pain affects 80 percent of American’s during their lifetime, and you can see the potential for an outbreak of back issues just waiting to happen.

Low back pain resulting from muscle strains and disc herniations is the most common complaint of amateur and professional golfers, while poor technique is the primary cause of such injuries. Lumbar strains can also occur when the golfer’s core muscles are not strong enough or lack the endurance to control the rotational demands on the spine.

The frequency of golf-related low back injuries can be reduced by rotating your hips and shoulders more. Video analysis in a Stanford University study concluded that professional golfers rotate their hips much more than amateurs. Twisting the upper back too much, while failing to turn the hips enough, is one of the leading causes of back injury among golfers.

The following tips may help you avoid injury when returning to the course or the driving range this spring:
• Warm up for at least 10 minutes. Studies shows those who warm up for at least 10 minutes experience half the injuries of those who do not warm up.
• Perfect your swing. Improving your golf swing mechanics is one of the best ways to decrease your risk of injury.
• Perform a regular exercise program that emphasizes core strength, upper trunk and lead hip rotation, and hamstring flexibility. A licensed physical therapist can evaluate your weaknesses and provide a customized program to address your individual needs.

Some golf-specific exercises recommended by the physical therapists at ProActive Sports Rehab in Orchard Park and Hamburg include:

Hamstring stretch: Low back torsion is decreased by increasing hamstrings flexibility.

Step 1. Place your left leg on a chair or the second or third step on a stairway and straighten both knees.

Step 2. While keeping an upright posture, rotate your hips to the right to stretch your hamstrings and groin; and rotate to the left to stretch your hamstrings and lateral hip muscles. Repeat 10 to 20 times for each leg.

Band walk: In a study presented by the American College of Sports Medicine, the best golfers who had the lowest handicaps and longest driving distances had strong hips.

Step 1: Place a 20-inch elastic band or “fitloop” around your ankles and stand with your back straight.

Step 2: Step to the left while facing forward for about 20 feet.

Step 3: Reverse the movement and step to the right for 20 feet. Repeat as necessary.

Trunk rotation: Focus on rotating your hips and shoulders as you turn.

Step 1. Stand with your back about six to eight inches from a wall and your feet spread shoulder width apart.

Step 2. Rotate your hips and upper back to the left and touch the wall with your right hand.

Step 3. Reverse the motion by rotating your hips and upper back to the right and touch the wall with your left hand. Repeat 20 times.

ProActive Sports Rehab has offices at 4535 Southwestern Blvd. (Suites 805 and 806) in Hamburg and at 240 Red Tail (Suites 3 and 4) in Orchard Park, in the Sterling Medical Park. For more information on golf-related injuries and other health issues, please call the Hamburg office at 648-8700 or the Orchard Park office at 674-9600, or visit www.proactivesportsrehab.com. You can also follow ProActive Sports Rehab on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ProActiveSportsRehab?fref=ts for frequent updates.

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