Congratulations to Professional Golfer Shane Lowry for his 2019 British Open Championship and for getting to lift the Claret Jug! As so many golfers know, the game of golf is all about consistency, mindset and sometimes a bit of luck. Professional golfers understand the importance of gaining a competitive edge, improving sustainability and injury prevention, just as Golf Legend Tiger Woods. These are just a few of the reasons why professional golfers get regular chiropractic treatment and many golfers bring their chiropractors to Major Tournaments like the British open.
So many weekend warriors are glued to their couches watching the Golf Channel, buying new golf clubs and working on their swing with professional golf coaches to improve their golf game and lower their handicap. Since working with athletes of a variety of sports I have realized that sometimes athletes reach a plateau in developing their game that has little to do with the equipment they’re using and the coaches they’re working with; both are doing exactly what they need to but sometimes the results just don’t show up on the course, field or court depending on what sport the athlete plays. After observing athletes at all levels and a variety of sports with the same issue, I noticed that many times this is due to a physical limitation that does not allow them to properly execute when they need to most. It’s because of this that I developed a protocol for my average client to improve their coordination and mobility while improving their sustainability so that they can do what they enjoy for the long haul. As a result, my clients are able to save money on lessons and equipment, they preserve their bodies and are able to fall back in love with the game they love.
Lets just focus on the game of Golf and how a golf swing can be influenced by physical limitations. I will review three parts of a golf swing that are directly influenced by these limitations to demonstrate how a golfer can improve his or her game. When looking at someone who has address the ball, there are a variety of things that can set yourself up for success or failure. How tight your grip is on the club, where the ball is placed in your stance and whether your feet and shoulders are perpendicular to where you want to hit the ball just to name a few. When looking at the address, a golfer may have some physical limitations that are preventing him or her from being set up for success during a golf shot. A variety of issues can prevent someone from having a consistent and suitable address of the ball. A common issue is poor posture when approaching the ball, this can cause a poor consistency and a loss of distance. The reason for this is that most people stand too tall when they approach the golf ball. When this happens, it is much more difficult for the legs to participate in the swing, this prevent the hips from opening up during the swing.
Another physical limitation that is common for many athletes is a lack of mobility. Even people who are flexible may experience a lack of mobility (Yes, you read that right). How can that be? Well, when looking at the golf swing there is a lot of rotation and torque that is created to generate force through the golf ball. Much of this torque and rotation is generated by the pelvis and spine which acts as a kinetic chain. One problem that athletes experience is a structural shift of one or more of the bones in the spine and pelvis that actually gets stuck and prevents motion at that joint. It is common for flexible people, especially young people to have the ability for the joints above and below the stuck joint to move more than it should. This causes an abnormal wear and tear on both the joint that is stuck and the ones that move too much. In addition, because these joints are not functioning properly, they affect the bodies coordination causing the athlete to perform at a lower level than they otherwise could.
When structural shifts of the spine cause a lack of mobility, they commonly cause a nerve injury. The bones of the spine normally protect the nerve system when they are functioning properly, but when they are shifted outside of a normal range the bone actually injures the nerve system causing nerve inflammation. Nerves don’t just stay near the spine, they travel to every organ and tissue in the body and act as the roadway for communication between the brain and the body. When nerve inflammation exists in the body the messages that the brain sends to the body is uncoordinated with other parts of the body leading to the body functioning at less than 100%. This can cause a variety of issues depending on where in the body the nerve is traveling to and how much nerve inflammation exists. If the injured nerve is in the lower back, those nerves travel down the leg and the person may experience Sciatic Nerve Pain. The nerves in the lower back don’t only travel down the leg, they also travel to the digestive tract, bladder and reproductive organs so an individual may also experience a variety of symptoms that are related to those organs.
Golfers commonly experience lower back injuries due to the stress and torque that they experience during a golf round but also because many individuals forgo warming up before a golf round. 10-15 minutes of stretching can not only help to prevent these types of injuries but they also help increase distance on the golf course just by warming up the muscles that are about to be used. Warming up also aids in coordinating different parts of the body that are needed to work together when executing a golf swing giving a golfer better touch and more control when beginning a round.
When thinking about how the body functions, whether it is on the golf course, a football or baseball field or a basketball court there needs to be a solid foundation to start from so that any athlete is set up for success. In the game of golf that foundation starts with the approach which directly influences the outcome of every golf shot. When talking about the foundation of the body, the pelvis and spine are that foundation. Keep in mind that the spine is the central structure of the body and the nerve system along with other structures of the body are directly affected by the alignment of the spine. The goal is to have the foundation of both the body and one’s golf game to aid in the advancement and maintenance of each respectively.
It speaks volumes the number of professional golfers who utilize chiropractic to gain a competitive edge, prevent injuries as well as to improve their sustainability so that they can fall in love with the game. If you know of someone who has hit a plateau in their game, continues to spend time and money with new swing coaches and new equipment, they may be dealing with a physical limitation that is preventing them from enjoying the game and achieving the score that they have worked so hard to earn.