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Overview Of Golf Conditioning

 

Golf is usually viewed as a game of technical skill not one as an athletic event. However, golf is a very physically demanding sport. Research shows that amateur golfers use 90% of their peak muscle activity when driving a golf ball. This 90% peak activity equates to an exertion of lifting a maximal weight four times before fatiguing. It is remarkable that golfers have to drive a ball an average of 30-40 times at this level of exertion during a typical 18-round game.

Aerobically, golfers typically walk four to six miles in playing a round of golf.

Until recently, few golfers recognized the need for improving their physical conditioning as a component of golf success. Physical conditioning has to be based on a foundation of optimal performance flexibility.  Optimal flexibility eliminates the variations to golf mechanics, promotes  proper conditioning, reduces the fatigue factor and the breakdown of biomechanics.

In the past twenty years amateur golfers handicaps have not changed. Twenty years ago men golfer’s handicaps were 16.2 whereas the women’s was 29. Recently, men golfer’s handicaps were measured and remained at 16.2 unchanged nor has the women’s handicap changed at 29.

What does this indicate to the golfing industry? Amateur golfers have not improved in their game despite all the technological advances; however, elite professionals have improved their scores as well as their strength in driving the ball longer distances.  Elite players have benefited from advances in equipment and ball technology and design, which led to their performance improvement.  Another reason given for the success of the elite golfers is their improved conditioning and flexibility routines. Science shows that conditioning and flexibility help reduce injuries, balances out weaknesses and minimizes adjustments in the golf swing mechanics.

Since the 1960’s the average length of golf drives have only increased by six yards. As mentioned earlier, there is no change in the amateur golfers' handicaps over the 20-30 year period. The notable findings however are the elite level where the US Open Championships scores have dropped an average of two strokes every ten years.

Golf ranks fifth overall in rate of injuries of the most common twenty sporting activities analyzed. Back injury is the most common for all golfers at any given time and affects 50% of golfers. The primary reason for back injury is muscular weakness in combination with poor mechanics. Poor mechanics are defined at excessive or uneven bending and twisting in the lumbar pelvic structures especially between lumbar 2 and lumbar 4 vertebrae - notably L3-4.

Back pain causes have been analyzed and have been found to be from multiple musculoskeletal structures. Screening techniques developed by physical therapists and fitness trainers help identify muscular skeletal sources for the pains and establish the mechanisms of injury.

The key to identifying the cause of pain and injury are diagnostic tests to be as specific as possible to the cause of the pain as well as to the mechanism of injury.  Frequently, health professionals focus on the symptomatic pain and removing this pain quality rather than addressing the underlying cause that precipitated the pain.  Unless the cause of the problem is corrected, this problem will extend to other structures adjacent to it.

Assuming no underlying structural damage or disc problem is found, the more successful technique in optimizing recovery and restoring proper mechanics are forms of muscular releases. A more technical term is myofascial release techniques.  Effective myofascial release techniques are based on sound anatomical anatomy isolating the individual structures while minimizing strain or injury to other structures.

The most specific to anatomy and biomechanics of myofascial release techniques have been the Mattes Method of Active Isolated Stretch (AIS) and Active Release Technique (ART). Both of these methods are excellent in providing myofascial functional restoration. Other techniques that are utilized include Rolfing, yoga, massage and neuromuscular massage.

At a professional level at any given time there are as many as 30% of playing golf professionals who are in the tournament participating with low back injuries. Men are slightly more prevalent with back injuries than their female LPGA counterparts. Another interesting statistic reveals that those players who golf and play another sport are 40% more likely to develop back pain when compared to those who only play golf.

Once assessments are completed, specific muscle weaknesses and imbalances are identified.   Correction of pain is just the first step of treating golf injury whereas proper conditioning and strengthening is as equally important in the prevention of recurrence. 

 

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

 

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