Golfer's Spine Mechanics
Back injuries account to up to 50% of all injuries sustained by men who
play golf. Golfers’ back problems usually can be attributed to one or more
of the following: excessive uneven bending or twisting, jerky mechanics
or muscular weakness. Of the three, muscular weakness is the most
critical. Strong muscles stabilize the spine. The stronger the muscles
supporting the spine, the more protection one has against twisting or
jerky motions that can cause injuries.
In a right-handed golfer, the muscles to the left of the spine contribute
significantly to swing speed. In the right-handed golfer, the muscles
on the right of the spine help to absorb the decelerating forces that
bring the golf club to a stop during the follow-through.
The abdominal muscles provide protection to the spine. When the abdominal
muscles are strong, they allow for more flexible back muscles. With
better-conditioned abdominal muscles, the spine will be effectively
supported with more flexible lower back muscles that reduces the risk of
Low back pain was identified as the most common musculoskeletal affecting
amateur and professional golfers. Professional golfers reported 63% of
injuries related to the low back whereas amateur golfers only reported 36%
of all injuries to the back. It is obvious to attribute poor mechanics,
excessive practice and poor physical conditioning to amateur golfers;
however, these factors are minimized at the professional level.
Although both the abdominal and low back muscles work together to
contribute to the rotation of the trunk and stability to the lumbar spine,
the abdominal muscles tend to fatigue more easily than the low back
muscles especially in individuals with low back pain.
Hip and shoulder rotation during the golf swing of low handicap players
The motion of the shoulders, arms and the club during the golf swing has
often been modeled as a double pendulum motion. Instructors in books often
refer to an optimal range of shoulder rotation of 90 degrees during the
backswing. Remarkably, studies on low handicap golfers showed that the
shoulders actually rotated in excess of 90 degrees during the backswing,
and in 75% of the golfers continued rotating away further to as much as
132 degrees with the average being 109 degrees +/- 12 degrees.
Studies show that during the backswing the shoulders continue to rotate to
the endpoint and prior to reaching this endpoint the hips initiate
rotating back 0.1 seconds prior to the shoulders reaching their optimal
Timing of the golf swing showed that 78% of the swing time was taken in
the backswing whereas 22% of the time was in the downswing.
The study also addressed hip rotation. It has been assumed previously that
the proper hip rotation should be around 45 degrees. The elite golfers
rotated anywhere from 35-48 degrees with the mean being at 37 degrees +/-
9 degrees. It has been reported that Tiger Woods has a hip rotation of
only 35 degrees with a shoulder rotation of 110 degrees. This compacted
rotation increases the coiling for the spring prior to unwinding through
the downswing motion.
Rotation of the both the hips and shoulders away from the target begins
immediately after the address, with the shoulders rotating more rapidly
than the hips. The maximal shoulder range of 102 degrees +/- 16 degrees
was greater than the 90-degree angle that had been advised in previous
studies. In movement patterns near the end of the backswing, the hips
initiate the downswing. Leading with the hips allows an
eccentric-concentric sequence of the spinal rotators. This allows the hips
and shoulders to rotate in opposite direction before they both rotate back
toward the target. This stretch-shortened cycle increases the acceleration
of the shoulders.
To summarize, proper mechanics, flexibility and conditioning all play a
role in the golf swing. Properly prepared, the risk of injury is
Should you have any further questions
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the Doctor" section.
Copyright © 2004 - 2012Taras V.
Kochno, M.D. All Rights Reserved
Board Certified in
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation