As the warm weather arrives and we begin to emerge from our winter cocoons, many of us are finding the urge to resume the warm-weather activities we’ve all been missing. Golfers, in particular, have been longing to find their way to the fairways and greens this spring.
Andrea Hogan, PT, DPT, a Titleist Performance Institute Certified therapist, warns that although it is great to get back to exercising outdoors, golfers should use caution and prepare their bodies for the stress on underused muscles and joints generated by a golf swing.
“For many golfers, it has been over a year since being out on the course. Following a long period of dormancy, it is important to start back gradually,” Hogan said. “I recommend beginning the season at the driving range to re-introduce your body to the rigors of the game. There is no shame in starting slow, so that injuries don’t stop you from getting a full year in on the course.”
Hogan encourages golfers to incorporate a stretching routine into their pre-game warm up, and to ease back into the game with a trip to the driving range. “We all want to jump right back into the game, but the safer thing to do is to start with some half swings to loosen up the muscles and joints that haven’t been used in that way for some time.”
Spring is also golf fundraising tournament season, and many golfers may be trying to out-do each other with longest drive contests right out of the gate.
“A golf swing is a very aggressive action,” said Hogan. “It goes from one extreme of motion, to another of explosive movement, instantly, providing tremendous torque on hips, neck, lower back, shoulders, hands and wrists. This combination of movement is something that should be worked up to over time.”
“Many golf injuries are not actually acquired on the golf course, but are highlighted there,” the majority of those injuries have come from other aspects of people’s lives – to their neck, shoulder or lower back – and that aggressive swing exacerbates other injuries.
“This time of year, we see many patients with complaints of rotator cuff soreness and low back pain. Roughly between one-fourth to one-third of the patients I see over the age of 40 are trying to get back on to the golf course.”
Early in the season, Hogan and her colleagues work with golfers on stretches and stability exercises for the shoulder, and building their swing slowly, starting with putting, then chipping, before getting to driving.
For golfers with low back pain, the emphasis is on simple stretches, core exercises and posturing. “What is known as the set-up posture in golf is actually a very challenging position for most amateurs to achieve and maintain throughout their swing,” she said. ”It is important to stretch and warm up before any physical activity,” Hogan said. “Golf is a great exercise when done safely and when properly prepared.”
Andrea Hogan, PT, DPT, TPI medical II, is a physical therapist in rehabilitation services at MelroseWakefield Healthcare. To help improve to improve your golf game, prevent injury and decrease pain call for an appointment with Andrea at 781-620-4990. For more information, visit melrosewakefield.org/rehab.