Updated: Nov 4
Golf has captured the interest of a great number of fans, with an estimated 50 to 80 million participants spanning over 136 countries globally (World Golf Foundation, 2021). This sport has a broad appeal, attracting players from numerous backgrounds and skill levels. The challenge of perfecting one's technique and the camaraderie among players are just a few factors that contribute to golf's enduring popularity.
A key aspect of the game is the pursuit of perfecting one's golf swing or aiming to achieve the most efficient swing possible. This goal is prevalent among enthusiasts, regardless of their experience or proficiency. Players invest time, effort, and money into refining their swings, often seeking guidance from instructors, books, or online resources, hoping to improve their performance on the course.
Powering Your Swing
An effective golf swing exemplifies power generation by employing the entire body.
The initial twisting motion of the body during the golf swing creates a remarkable amount of rotational force. This force accelerates the velocity of the club head, with the resulting energy channelled into the ball. A faster club head speed transfers more kinetic energy to the golf ball. Professionals can achieve club head speeds exceeding 160 km/h (2) – truly astonishing!
Apart from the energy directed into the club head, the body also absorbs significant force. For instance, a golfer weighing 190 pounds will experience a force equal to ten times their body weight acting upon their spinal structures (3,4). This immense force is the primary reason golfers in suboptimal physical condition are prone to injuries in the back, shoulder, elbow, and wrist areas.
Between 15.8% and 40.9% of amateur golfers sustain injuries yearly, while professional golfers face annual injury rates ranging from 30% to 90%. Contrary to popular belief, golf is not a low-injury sport. (14,15)
TECHNIQUE - JUST ONE COMPONENT!
Proper technique is crucial for enhancing the efficacy of a golf swing and minimizing injuries. It is particularly significant when considering that an amateur golfer with an inefficient swing can produce up to 80% more torque and shear loads on the body compared to a professional golfer's swing (3,4).
Golf demands a combination of mobility, stability, and strength for optimal performance. Therefore, cultivating good golf technique is one component in achieving better golf swing results (5,6).
Your Body's State of Being
As we gear up for the upcoming golf season, taking stock of our body's physical well-being is important. Are our muscles strong, flexible, and mobile? Are our joints unrestricted from the neck, shoulders, hips, and spine down to the knees and ankles? It's worth noting that some golfers prioritize their shiny new drivers over the status of their own bodies, but let's not forget to give our physical selves the attention it deserves!
Focusing on the quality of your body's soft tissue and joints is essential to improve your golf game. Are your muscles tense, inflexible, or weak? Are your connective tissues capable of efficiently storing and releasing energy? If not, it could be an underlying issue that needs to be addressed to achieve maximum efficiency and avoid injuries.
Fortunately, there are several ways to optimize your body for golf. But before we delve into those methods, let's first talk about one of the primary reasons you can change your body at any age. It is called Davis's Law.
Soft Tissue Adapts To Meet Demands
Davis's Law is a foundational principle in physiology, which explains soft tissue's adaptive changes and remodelling in response to the mechanical forces and stresses exerted upon it.
The principle operates as follows: each movement affects the body's tissues. Due to repetitive stress, connective tissue may become denser, muscle imbalances emerge, nerves can be entrapped, aberrant motion patterns develop, and the body often experiences a decline in the range of motion, strength, and motor control.
Golf coaches are well-versed in the concept of adaptive loading, which is why they recommend specific exercises to improve mobility, flexibility, stability, and strength in addition to technique suggestions.
Regrettably, exercise alone is frequently insufficient to reverse the long-term biomechanical adaptations resulting from an individual's injury history.
Moreover, essential exercise may not be adequate to counteract the effects of an inefficient golf swing on the body. The very sport you love could also be perpetuating muscle imbalances and restrictions.
Manual therapy, including soft tissue and joint procedures, can significantly help reverse these changes. However, before delving deeper into this topic, let's examine the body's capacity to store and release energy, focusing on a key structure: the "Fascial Tensional Network" and its impact on your energy storage capacity.
The Fascial Tensional Network
Fascia is commonly defined as: "one interconnected tensional network that adapts its fiber arrangement and density according to local tensional demands."(5)
When fascial tension is well-balanced, it distributes force throughout the body, enabling energy storage and release for propulsion (any action). However, when fascial tension becomes imbalanced, hypertensive, or restricted, it can significantly impair performance and result in injury. As mentioned earlier, every injury or physical force experienced generates mechanical forces within the body. Over time, these forces induce changes (transcriptional RNA) that ultimately alter the fascial architecture, causing the fascia to remodel.
Such changes can lead to muscular imbalances, adhesion formation, fascial thickening, and reduced mobility. It also has a huge effect on your ability to store and release energy. A healthy fascial system is the golfer's best friend; a dysfunctional one can be the source of multiple problems!
Applying Biomechanical Research
Numerous research studies have identified the precise anatomical structures (muscles) involved in executing each aspect of a golf swing. This information is invaluable for practitioners, particularly when determining which anatomical structures are causing problems in a patient's golf swing. (16,17,18)
A golf swing can be divided into five specific actions:
Address to Top of Backswing.
Early Down Swing - Top of the backswing to club horizontal position.
Late Down Swing - Horizontal club position to ball impact.
Early Follow Through - Ball impact to horizontal club position.
Late Follow Through - Horizontal club position to completion of the swing.
When a golfer struggles with a particular swing phase, practitioners can often identify specific muscles causing the issue and work on addressing them accordingly.
Practitioners often learn about a golfer's swing phase difficulties from their Golf Pro, video analysis, 3D Golf Swing Analysis programs, or often directly from the golfer themselves. With this knowledge, practitioners can begin targeting the specific structures associated with the problematic swing phase. I have used this information on PGA and amateur golfers with some remarkable results.
In conclusion, Part 1 of this article emphasizes the correlation between a particular phase of the golf swing and specific anatomical structures.
By addressing these structures, golfers can optimize their performance and reduce the risk of injuries. It is important to mention that practitioners and golfers can greatly benefit from collaborating with Golf Pros to identify specific challenges in the swing phase that a person is having trouble with so that evidence-based strategies can be implemented by there practitioners.
As we progress to Part 2, we'll dive further into the distinct phases of the golf swing and the primary structures implicated, offering critical insights for practitioners treating golfers and players aiming to enhance their game. Additionally, we'll explore how golf is an incredibly asymmetrical sport and how this can impact performance, potential injuries and the golfer's body.
DDR. BRIAN ABELSON DC. - The Author
Dr. Abelson is committed to running an evidence-based practice (EBP) incorporating the most up-to-date research evidence. He combines his clinical expertise with each patient's specific values and needs to deliver effective, patient-centred personalized care.
As the Motion Specific Release (MSR) Treatment Systems developer, Dr. Abelson operates a clinical practice in Calgary, Alberta, under Kinetic Health. He has authored ten publications and continues offering online courses and his live programs to healthcare professionals seeking to expand their knowledge and skills in treating musculoskeletal conditions. By staying current with the latest research and offering innovative treatment options, Dr. Abelson is dedicated to helping his patients achieve optimal health and wellness.
Despite being in the field for over three decades, Dr. Abelson remains open to welcoming new patients at Kinetic Health, save for the periods he dedicates to teaching or enjoying travels with his cherished wife, Kamali. However, be forewarned, he will anticipate your commitment to carry out the prescribed exercises and punctuality for your appointments (smile). His dedication towards your health is absolute, particularly in ensuring that you can revel in life unimpeded. He genuinely delights in greeting both new faces and familiar ones at the clinic (403-241-3772).
Revolutionize Your Practice with Motion Specific Release (MSR)!
MSR, a cutting-edge treatment system, uniquely fuses varied therapeutic perspectives to resolve musculoskeletal conditions effectively.
Attend our courses to equip yourself with innovative soft-tissue and osseous techniques that seamlessly integrate into your clinical practice and empower your patients by relieving their pain and restoring function. Our curriculum marries medical science with creative therapeutic approaches and provides a comprehensive understanding of musculoskeletal diagnosis and treatment methods.
Our system offers a blend of orthopedic and neurological assessments, myofascial interventions, osseous manipulations, acupressure techniques, kinetic chain explorations, and functional exercise plans.
With MSR, your practice will flourish, achieve remarkable clinical outcomes, and see patient referrals skyrocket. Step into the future of treatment with MSR courses and membership!
References - Part 1
Farrally MR, Cochran AJ, Crews DJ, Hurdzan MJ, Price RJ, Snow JT. Golf science research at the beginning of the twenty first century. J Sports Sci. 2003;21(9):753–65.
Egret CI, Vincent O, Weber J, Dujardin FH, Chollet D. Analysis of 3D kinematics concerning three different clubs in golf swing. Int J Sports Med. 2003;24(6):465–70.
Gluck GS, Bendo JA, Spivak JM. The lumbar spine and low back pain in golf: a literature review of swing biomechanics and injury prevention. Spine J. 2008 Sep-Oct;8(5):778-88.
Adams MA, Hutton WC. The relevance of torsion to the mechanical derangement of the lumbar spine. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1981 May-Jun;6(3):241-8.
Hellström J. Competitive elite golf: a review of the relationships between playing results, technique and physique. Sports Med. 2009;39(9):723–41.
Sell TC, Tsai YS, Smoliga JM, Myers JB, Lephart SM. Strength, flexibility, and balance characteristics of highly proficient golfers. J Strength Cond Res. 2007;21(4):1166–71.
Abelson, B., Abelson, K., & Mylonas, E. (2018, February). A Practitioner's Guide to Motion Specific Release, Functional, Successful, Easy to Implement Techniques for Musculoskeletal Injuries (1st edition). Rowan Tree Books.
Gluck, G. S., Bendo, J. A., & Spivak, J. M. (2008). The lumbar spine and low back pain in golf: a literature review of swing biomechanics and injury prevention. The Spine Journal, 8(5), 778-788.
Lindsay, D. M., & Vandervoort, A. A. (2014). Golf-related low back pain: a review of causative factors and prevention strategies. Asian Journal of Sports Medicine, 5(4), e24289.
McHardy, A., & Pollard, H. (2005). Lower back pain in golfers: a review. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, 4(4), 135-143.
Hosea, T. M., & Gatt, C. J. (1996). Back pain in golf. Clinical Sports Medicine, 15(1), 37-53.
Myers, T. W. (2013). Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists. Elsevier Health Sciences.
Hellström, J. (2009). Competitive elite golf: a review of the relationships between playing results, technique and physique. Sports Medicine, 39(9), 723-741.
McHardy, A., & Pollard, H. (2005). Lower back pain in golfers: a review. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, 4(4), 135-143. doi:10.1016/S0899-3467(07)60120-9 Link:
Gosheger, G., Liem, D., Ludwig, K., Greshake, O., & Winkelmann, W. (2003). Injuries and overuse syndromes in golf. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 31(3), 438-443. doi:10.1177/03635465030310031601 Link:
Bulbulian, R., Ball, K.A., & Seaman, D.R. (2001). The short golf backswing: effects on performance and spinal health implications. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 24(9), 569-575. doi:10.1067/mmt.2001.118979
Gluck, G.S., Bendo, J.A., & Spivak, J.M. (2008). The lumbar spine and low back pain in golf: a literature review of swing biomechanics and injury prevention. The Spine Journal, 8(5), 778-788. doi:10.1016/j.spinee.2007.10.015
McCarroll, J.R., & Gioe, T.J. (1982). Professional golfers and the price they pay. The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 10(7), 64-70. doi:10.1080/00913847.1982.11711162
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