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Golf - Motor Learning And Muscle Memory

 

Tiger Woods was an exceptional golfer, yet he required one year to change some of his old habits, which helped optimize his golf game.  Other golfers allow themselves two years of retraining to correct old habits and engrain them into new muscle memory.

In motor learning of an athletic skill, the muscles develop a pattern after repeated physical motion.  This pattern becomes engrained in the brain such that at any given time the motion and mechanics of a golf swing can be recalled with success.  The more the skill is practiced and  perfected, the more heightened is the muscle memory.

Motor learning is maximized by incorporating as many senses or sensory input into the training.  Students are asked to incorporate reading, listening to verbal explanation, viewing the drill as well as physically performing the drill.

Unfortunately, most golfers have had various instructors making multiple minor or major adjustments in their golf swing, which leads to confusion in the brain.  This confusion cannot establish a firm muscle memory.  As a result, the information to motor memory has too many variation thus lacks consistent reproducibility.  In golf you learn by doing it correctly time after time.  Old habit patterns must be changed and changed for good.

Research from Johns Hopkins University shows that to learn a new skill, it is not enough simply to practice it.  After practicing a skill, you have to allow enough time for the brain to encode the information.  For about six hours after you learn a new motor skill, there is a window of vulnerability during which this new skill can be erased from your memory if you try to learn another additional skill.  This is why students often get confused and discouraged with trying to learn golf.  The problem is not in the amount of information you are receiving about any one skill or task, but the number of tasks presented all at once.  You can absorb a lot of information about the task you are learning, but if there is not a sufficient incubation period for this task, your brain will forget what you have learned.

 

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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