Written by Dr. Chad Kuntz, PT, DPT, OCS, SCS, CSCS, CISSN, TPI-1.
There probably isn’t a more complicated swing on the planet that uses as many muscles and bones as a golf swing. It literally requires your entire body to work in harmony in order to hit that tiny little ball where you want it. As most of you know, our bodies don’t always work in “harmony,” and at times, far from it. This common standard for most golfers leads our bodies to creatively figure out ways around our dysfunctions, limitations or painful areas to still hit that ball where we want it to. While this article doesn’t serve as a means to correct every physical fault you have, it may shed some light on some common swing characteristics that are inefficient and potentially pain bombs waiting to go off.
First and foremost, lets start off with your postural stance. Your posture sets the foundation for the rest of the golf swing, plain and simple. If you find yourself ‘locked’ such as the position below, it may snowball into a world of compensations that can lead you into trouble quickly. The nature of the problem lies into the mechanics of the spine. Simply put, this position, known as the “S – Curve,” postition, is promptly named because of the S configuration it gives your back. If you notice at the bottom of the spine it looks locked, it’s because it is! This position is known as the “closed packed position,” of the spine. While this is the strongest position of the spine, it does not allow any freedom of movement. Interestingly enough, this is probably why people end up electing to subconcsiously find themselves in this position, because it is an inherently easy, stable position to obtain.
Take this picture for example. Notice the limitation of space (picture on the left) in the canal just posterior to the spine with the picture on the left. That is essentially what your spine is ‘working with’ in an S- curve postural stance.
A Sway is essentially defined as excessive lower body lateral movement away from the target during the back swing. The reason that this is important is because your body should essentially stay in the same position throughout the swing and simply rotate. As seen below in the two pictures, on the right, during the backswing, the shoulders are appropriately within the two imaginary ‘pillars,’ showing appropriate trunk and hip rotation. On the left, I inappropriately “sway,” showing my right part of my body is either potentially limited in rotation in either the trunk and/ or hip. There are various limitations and it is not in the scope of this article to delineate each one, however limitations in thoracic spine mobility, rib cage mobility, right hip internal (medial) rotation, left hip external (lateral) rotation and soft tissue deficits could be playing a role.
Interestingly enough, as we get older, internal (medial) rotation tends to be a limiting factor due to capsular tightness. In that case, it would actually be my right hip limiting my ability to properly rotate and yields a sway movement.
A Slide is similar to a sway except instead of the excessive movement away from the target, it is actually defined as excessive lateral movement of the lower extremity towards your target. Once again, our body should be rotating towards our target and staying within the two imaginary pillars, opposed to ‘sliding’ towards it. In the follow through position for a right handed golfer, my left leg undergoes internal rotation, right hip external rotation as well as left trunk rotation. To expound on soft tissue deficits previously mentioned in the Sway category, several muscles can be also limiting one’s appropriate follow through. Right internal obliques, left external obliques, right hip flexors as well as left proximal hip external rotators ( gluteus Maximus, posterior fibers of gluteus medius and the piriformis) can all play roles from a myofascial standpoint limiting movement. The picture below shows an example of an appropriate follow through position from an anterior to posterior view while the picture on the left shows an example of the sway.
These are just three of many golf swing characteristics that can cause pain or eventually lead to pain, not to mention doing your golf score a potential disservice. I suggest you follow up with a practitioner who is well versed in the functional requirements of an avid golfer who can tease out your impairments and/ or limitations in order to set you up in the right direction for a successful golf swing. Lastly, understand that the healthcare practitioner does NOT take the place of your golf pro as only he/she understands what you need for the best, most efficient golf swing. The practitioner’s job is to only set you up for success when you attempt to perform the most efficient swing your body can handle.
Look out for future articles unraveling more swing characteristics that can lead to pain in the future!
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