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Golf Is a Contact Sport

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The golf swing doesn’t have to cause low back pain.

  • 53% of male golfers suffer low back pain.
  • 45% of female golfers suffer low back pain.
  • 33% of golfers are over 50, not always in top condition.
  • 30% of professional golfers play injured.

Golf is a contact sport. The club hits the ball, sand, grass, even a root now and then. The body’s many joints make contact throughout the golf swing. The golf swing engages a range of independent body movements, so it’s usually only a matter of time before every golfer with unbalanced muscles will experience an acute injury or chronic back pain. Every golfer has unbalanced muscles, just because he lives and works in our sedentary world.

It’s crunch time when a high-velocity rotating stroke occurs at the same time that the trunk bends, giving the spine and muscles around it a beating. It’s little wonder that low back pain is the most common pain complaint among golfers.

Most injuries to male golfers start in the low back. Injuries to female golfers often begin in the upper back and move quickly down. Amateurs are typically injured due to improper swing mechanics. Professionals develop overuse injuries as they obsessively practice repeated strokes.

In order to hit the ball a great distance, the body must have the ability to rotate into a wide arc and to maintain it throughout the swing. Any increase in hip rotation will reduce shoulder turn, lessening the amount of trunk forward and side bending during the downswing. Without full hip rotation, back pain will be a constant companion. With unbalanced muscles, full rotation of the hips is impossible.

There are usually two issues causing a golfer’s back pain, muscle imbalances and joint dysfunction. A distinct pattern of muscle imbalance will develop as a result of a prolonged inactive posture. When a muscle remains in a shortened or contracted state for an extended period of time, it produces a reflex weakening of muscles on the opposite side of the body.

This lower body combination of weak, overactive, or tight muscles is called lower crossed syndrome and it will produce an inevitable low back movement pattern that will lead to injury. If your therapist or orthopedist doesn’t know what lower crossed syndrome is and what muscles and joints are involved, walk out the door. Find one who does. This information is too basic to be left out of any professional diagnosis!

Most “weekend warriors” sit in a flexed position at their jobs for hours on end. Day-by-day, the psoas and other postural muscles tighten and shorten, causing an impulse weakening of muscles. This neurological lapse inhibits the major butt muscles, critical stabilizers of the hip during the golf swing. Golfers often show up on the links with a big low back curve, a flabby and droopy abdomen, and a flat butt, a perfect example of lopsided muscles.

The true walking and climbing muscles, the quadriceps, the muscles in the front of the thighs, must be strengthened, along with the weak butt muscles. Relaxing the psoas muscle will lengthen the spine of the low back and allow the natural rotation of the spine to occur in the golf swing.

Repair this condition with three yoga exercises called Cat-Cow, Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch, and Bridge & Leg Extension. They won’t be comfortable at first but a daily set will make a difference in your game. This series won’t do everything you need but it’s a start. Go to the website if you would like a copy of these exercises.

You can’t be a better golfer if your muscles won’t cooperate. The central and peripheral nervous systems won’t let you do a movement unless the neurosystem determines that you can manage it without harming the joints. Muscles control the joints, not the other way ’round. When you override that STOP response by pushing through pain or twisting over your knee, you do it at great risk to your low back.

It’s about control. Once a golfer has control over new and varied movement patterns, he or she can perform better with less chance of injury. When muscles are balanced, the joints stay aligned and operate with a free range of motion. The rate of force creation and club speed improves… and so does the golf swing! The drive is longer, more accurate, and without pain. It’s not rocket science, just common sense.

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About Bill Boland

  • Ira

    I have been working with Bill for quite a while and have found his exercise routine to be extremely helpful – I am now able to use my body in the golf swing in ways that I could not before. Friends of mine have had similar results. Back pain and other pains have been eliminated. One friend could barely walk and is now walking 18 holes pain free. I highly recommend giving Bill’s exercises a try.