What can we do to recognize it? And how can we correctly diagnose treat and manage the condition? With my experience over the past 20 years specializing in the treatment of Tour Players and amateurs alike, I will try to make sense of this often confused topic.
Golf is a repetitive strain sport – Meaning that we perform a repetitive activity (the swing) over years. Whether we hit buckets of balls on the range, play 3 rounds per week or once a month, our body will absorb the abnormal physical stresses and ultimately weaken the supportive elements of our musculo-skeletal system. It is important to understand the series of events that predispose us to injury.
Ligaments attach all of our bones together and tendons attach muscle to bone. The muscles are responsible for movement, support and stability. The brain is the control center of the body and the spinal cord, being an extension of the brain, transmits messages from the brain to the rest of the body. In between the vertebrae, the nerve roots exit the spinal cord to send messages to the peripheral joints (hands, arms, legs etc), which in turn allow us to swing the club and hit the desired shot.
However, due to a number of variables (force generated , injuries- old and new, poor fitness, lack of appropriate golf specific flexibility, being overweight and even playing too much golf!) we are all at risk of over stretching the ligaments AND straining the supportive muscular tissue, predisposing us to injury.
As a result of the correct or incorrect posture assumed while playing golf and the repetitive nature of the activity, injuries can occur in the Neck, Shoulder, Ribs, Lower Back, Hips, Golfers Elbow, and Ankles. The back, specifically the Lumbar Spine, is the main structure that absorbs the majority of the force.
More often than not we arrive at the club with a few minutes to spare and your warm up consists of two practice swings on the first tee. Tight muscles, joints, and back. – A sure route to disaster! It may not happen immediately, but overtime, the structural integrity of the spine (ligaments) will weaken and the resultant vertebrae will move into an inefficient bio-mechanical position. As a result of the above bio-mechanical misalignment, the muscles will reflexively go into a spasm to beneficially prevent further damage but detrimentally splint the misaligned vertebrae in the incorrect position. Result: stiffness, pain both muscular and nerve, sciatic neuralgia, immobility, and a mechanically inefficient swing.
The key is PREVENTION, and if its too late, accurate diagnosis, treatment and management by a medical specialist. Whether golf is a game or a sport, you need to be fit to play. Exercise and flexibility is the key and having regular lessons with your PGA Pro is of course advised. I advise core stability and cardiovascular exercise to begin with and then more golf specific exercises may be introduced. If you have any predisposing injuries they should be treated.