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Dear Dr. Caraotta,
Everyone knows that walking is a good overall exercise, but what do you think about golf if a person walks the course. Is golf a good exercise?
Dr. Caraotta's Response
Almost every exercise is beneficial, depending on a person’s health status and conditioning. There are however precautionary measures and some particulars with every sport that should be considered. In golf and other sports that heavily involve swinging an object or striking a ball, it is typical for torsional stress on the involved joints of the spine to produce chronic pain in the affected joints.
Dr. Watkins, in his book The Spine in Sports , notes that on the PGA Tour, the most common injuries are to the low back and neck. He also stated that “almost all professional golfers deal with some form of cervical (neck) or lumbar (low back) problems”. Does this mean that golf should be avoided by the general population? Absolutely not! Keep in mind that these high performance athletes are performing swinging maneuvers much more concentrated and frequent than the average golfer and this repetition is what causes this phenomenum. With this in mind, lets discuss some things that should be considered when golfing.
The golf swing demands coordinated function of the trunk, especially during the extremes of motion. The most common problem in golf is that it is easy to maintain tight trunk control in the mid-rotational power position but it is at the extremes of the back swing that most injuries occur. This leads to a common recommendation for the recreational golfer, which is to reduce the length of the back swing and follow-through. In fact, recent research by Neighbors (1997) indicates that the back swing can be shortened approximately 20% without a loss in club head velocity at ball impact.
Strengthening certain muscle groups could also help prevent golf injuries. These muscles include the thighs, hips, abdominal, paraspinal musculature, latissimus dorsi, and the scapular stabilizers.
Players who have played for a long time will basically swing the same way they have always swung. If poor mechanics have been developed over a period of time due to injury or compensation for weaknesses or instability, they will likely have difficulty correcting the swing faults as long as they continue without intervention. These players may require instruction on appropriate mechanics and may need to rest from the game as they rehabilitate. Next week we will discuss some injuries that are common to golfers, and some protocols of rehabilitation that could be helpful.
If you have a question that you would like Dr. Caraotta to address in his column, you can send your question to his office at 4921 E. State Street, Rockford, IL. 61108 or call your question in at Caraotta Chiropractic Orthopedics, (815) 398-4004 and ask to speak with one of the doctors.