The Senior Golfer - Age and
Statistics from the National Golf
Foundation indicate that in 1996 there were over six million seniors, 50
years of age or older, playing golf in the United States. This group
accounted for approximately 25% of the golfing population but reflected
50% of the total number of annual rounds played.
In terms of spinal stress, the golf swing
produces a complex loading pattern involving shear, compression and axial
portion loads with rapid changes in the directions of these forces.
Studies show that the lead hip experienced a much greater rotation torque
than the trailing hip during the downswing. These findings help explain
the asymmetrical hip deterioration in golfers.
The knees in the golf swing differed in
their motion and torque. The lead knee was subjected more to an internal
rotation, posterior and varus force on the downswing, while the trail-side
experienced an external rotation, anterior and valgus stress.
Studies concluded that golf was not a
very strenuous arm activity but did require synchronous activity of the
rotator cuff muscles in order to protect the glenohumeral complex of the
shoulder. The findings noted that right-handed golfers had left-sided
rotator cuff problems.
Studies examined the role of the scapular
muscles (levator scapula, rhomboid, trapezius, serratus anterior) during
the golf swing. They concluded that the upper, middle and lower trapezius
muscles all work together to help retract the scapula during different
parts of the swing. Activity in the trailing arm primarily occurred during
takeaway whereas activity in the leading arm occurred during acceleration.
The lead side levator scapula and rhomboid muscles also helped elevate and
retract the scapula in the downswing.
Researchers studied the activity patterns
of the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, adductor magnus, biceps femoris,
semimembranosus and vastus lateralis muscle in competitive golfers. These
researchers concluded that extensors and abductors of the trail hip in
conjunction with the lead adductor magnus contract powerfully to initiate
pelvic rotation during the downswing. The lead vastus lateralis and the
hamstrings acted to stabilize the knee joints during this pelvic rotation.
The most common injury in senior Japanese
golfers was to the lumbar region.
Overuse through excessive practice
(repetitive swings) was consistently identified as the most common cause
of injury for all golf players. The ramifications of this are particularly
important to senior golfers as their ability to recover from the micro
trauma associated with repetitive motion decreases with age.
Several studies of stress fracture of the
ribs in golfers have been reported in literature. Golf ranks fifth in
terms of the frequency of reported cases among 19 different sports. The
lead side of rib fractures was involved in most 80% of cases. Most
fractures occurred in the mid-axilla line of the ribs six and seven in one
study whereas another study found the posterior postural lateral portion
of ribs 4-6 to be the most susceptible region. Weakness and fatigue of the
serratus anterior muscle was proposed as a key risk factor to developing
rib stress fractures from golf.
Another problem facing senior golfers
relates to exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Blue-eyed, fair-skinned,
Caucasian redheads were identified as the greatest risk for developing
skin cancer. The most common skin cancer was basal cell carcinoma.
Loss of strength due to aging has been an
increasing problem for older adults. As one ages, there is a reduction in
the total number of motor units as well as atrophy of the Type II fast
twitch muscle fibers. While it is generally thought that normal genetic
program of aging reduces the total number of motor units, a more sedentary
lifestyle of an older person results in atrophy of the Type II fast twitch
muscle fibers. Studies show that strength training is advantageous for
golfers of all ages but especially for seniors. Older adults who remain
physically active exhibit only moderate losses in skeletal muscle mass and
strength compared with sedentary controls. One study, reported that high
intensity training reached a greater strength gains in older persons than
low intensity training.
Researchers suggest that reduced shoulder
flexibility with the onset of articular degenerative processes,
acromioclavicular joint arthrosis with secondary osteophytes, was a common
problem for older golfers. These degenerative changes could lead to
impingement syndromes and muscle imbalances around the glenohumeral joint.
Another study found that trunk lateral
bending range of motion measured during the golf swing of senior golfers
was 25% less than that recorded from college players who had a mean of 19
years old. Axial rotation also decreased although the exact amount was not
reported. The authors commented that the decreased range of motion was
partly the expected sequela of aging and lost flexibility.
Studies show a decrease in speed and
movement among older golfers. Lumbar axial rotation velocities decreased
with increasing age. However, it was encouraging to note that the speed of
movement and power development could be improved in older adults with
specific training exercises. Of particular interest to senior golfers are
resisted movement patterns that mimic the swing such as exercising with a
specially weighted golf club.
The ability to maintain the proper
balance is also compromised with aging. Changes in occur in several body
systems that maintain postural control. These include muscular, skeletal,
neural and cardiovascular (regulating blood pressure).
American College of Sports Medicine
guidelines suggest that individuals should perform aerobic exercise for
20-30 minutes a day three times a week at 60-80% of vital capacity to
improve cardiovascular function. Recent studies have demonstrated that
mild to moderate exercise such as walking or cycling can be effective in
increasing aerobic capacity, especially in elderly persons, and can also
be beneficial at lowering blood pressure in hypertensive patients.
To summarize chronologic age creates
changes in our bodies that hinder athletic performance. Proper physical
activity, conditioning, stretching and task specific resistive exercises
lessen the effects on the musculoskeletal system and promote wellness and
the enjoyment of the golf game.
Should you have any further questions
regarding this article, please direct your questions or comments to "Ask
the Doctor" section.
Copyright © 2004 - 2012Taras V.
Kochno, M.D. All Rights Reserved
Board Certified in
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation