Research conducted into injuries amongst golfers has shown that almost 80% of injuries in professionals occur through overuse, with injuries primarily to the hips, wrists, back and shoulders. Injuries in amateurs can be caused by overuse, but in most cases occur due to faulty swing patterns developed around physical limitations. As a result, they over stress areas of the body and create injury, or further pre-existing injury. Injuries in the lower back and elbows due to poor technique and dysfunctional movement patterns are common in amateurs.
Injury inducing swing mechanics
Low back injuries
S-posture: Excessive anterior tilt in the lumbar spine causes inhibition of the abs and glutes. This position can lead to loss of posture, reverse spine angle, early extension and ultimately low back pain. Normal anterior tilt of the pelvis should be about 15-25 degrees. Golfers may have been told to stick their butt out when getting into golf posture, many do this by going into excessive anterior tilt. This immediately inhibits the abs and glutes. Or they exhibit lower-crossed syndrome and the same inhibition occurs.
Reverse spine angle: The golfer overly recruits the musculature of the back and lats, to go into too much extension in the back swing -this will directly increase the amount of sheer forces that the lumbar spine will be subjected too at impact. Reverse spine is can also be caused by a lack of mobility, particularly external rotation, in the shoulder.
Early extension: Golfer goes into rapid hip extension during the downswing – this inhibits the abdominals ability to stabilise through impact and increases the forces on the lumbar spine as a result. The players lower body can often be seen getting closer to the ball during the swing.
Reverse ‘C’ finish: Finishing the swing in full hyperextension (big arch in back) puts the lumbar spine under more compressive forces, increasing the chance of injury.
Restricted right leg follow through: This is a bigger deal than most people think due to the large deceleration torque created in the spine. You should be able to count all the spikes on the bottom of the right shoe from down the line after impact.
Chicken wing/Flying elbow/limited backswing: Limited shoulder range of motion, particularly external rotation, on either side increases the potential for tendonitis and other injury in the elbow joint.
Limited shoulder mobility on the target side often results in chicken winging. Chicken winging is characterised by the elbow bending and remaining close to the body as it slides aroundthe back to the follow through. If shoulder mobility is limited in the trail arm, you could have a flying elbow in your backswing, a limited backswing or it may force the golfer into a reverse spine angle.
Playing a repeitive sport, such as golf, can lead to imbalances and overuse injuries. Mobility work, improving soft tissue and muscle fascia quality, and a balanced program of resistance exercises, will help iron out imbalances and prevent overuse injuries. Having balanced chest and upper back musculature, plus strengthening the rotator cuff, can help avoid shoulder injuries. As well as helping to keep a neutral spine at address and adding power to your golf swing.
Developing adequate extension and rotation in the t-spine and mid-back to allow a full shoulder turn and negate the necessity for excessive lumbar movement.
Imbalances in forearm musculature can occur as a result of the numerous gripping and re-gripping required in golf, these imbalances can also lead to elbow pain. Soft tissue work for the forearms will improve tissue quality and help alleviate these pains.