The number of golfers in the United States is growing rapidly and will continue to grow to an anticipated 55 million players by 2020. Injury rates in golf will continue to rise as amateur participation increases. Lower back pain has been documented as the most common musculoskeletal complaint among amateur and professional golf athletes.
The mechanics of golf (much like every sport) has a joint-by-joint relationship and faulty mechanics in any one joint will directly impact other joints, often negatively. The joints directly involved in the golf swing have an alternating pattern of mobility and stability. The hips are primarily responsible for mobility and power transference through the kinetic chain, the lumbar spine for stability, the thoracic spine for mobility and the shoulders primarily for stability to transfer load through the hands.
The inability to maintain this alternating pattern will greatly inhibit and drastically limit kinetic linking and the dynamics of the golf swing. The inability to link the pattern through the hips, torso, shoulders and arms will increase the stress placed on the joints of the body, increasing ones risk for injury. Impairments in any one of these segments would force the golfer to compensate in order to produce similar levels of force generated in efficient movement patterns. Produced over and over again, this compensation will inevitably lead to pain and decreased performance.
The golf swing is focused on the amount of force generated on the back swing. Many golfers with lower back pain tend to rotate their upper bodies past their physical limits during the backswing, likely to compensate for the lack of rotational hip mobility, further exacerbating the condition.
So can improving hip mobility help golfers avoid injury and improve their game?
In short, yes. The ability to rotate the hips with a greater range of motion on the downswing will position the hips in a better line with the intended direction of the ball at impact. It’s clear that more hip mobility allows the shoulders to stay closed on the downswing which also improves swing efficiency.
The piriformis muscle plays a major role in hip range of motion (ROM) and any limitations will hinder performance and can cause pain. Through external rotation, the piriformis laterally stabilizes the hip, ensuring efficient power transfer, especially on the downswing.
When the piriformis becomes short, tight and/or overactive, other muscles (glutes, hip flexors, etc) can become weakened. This common dysfunction is often misdiagnosed.
Corrective exercise, deep tissue massage along with various types of stretching can usually correct this. If it doesn’t, you may have a much more serious issue.
A simple static stretch of this muscle can be an effective start for increasing hip range of motion (ROM).
To execute the stretch: Lay on your back with both knees bent. Cross the right ankle over the left knee. Lift the left leg until the hip and knee are at approximately 90 degrees. You should feel a good, strong stretch in the right piriformis (near your glute muscle). Hold this stretch for 15-30 seconds on each side. Repeat 3 times.
Aim for an even stretch on both sides. If one side is tighter then the other (as is often the case) hold twice as long on that side.
As more amateurs take up golf, injuries will continue to rise. Overcome movement limitations through mobility training and exercise and learn the secret to improving your game.
Strength For Life.