Golfers: How flexible are you? By Dr. Stephanie Harris
Flexibility is an overlooked and undervalued part of fitness, especially when it comes to golf. Golfers are athletes who require great degrees of range of motion in multiple joints (shoulders, torso, hips…) to swing a golf club. If your body does not have the proper range of motion, your distance, consistency, and swing will suffer and will also put you at risk for injury!
No matter what your handicap, every golfer can benefit from a stretching program and they will see the results in both the way they hit the ball and also in the way they feel during and after the round. In today’s post I will talk about the most important things to DO and the things you should AVOID when it comes to golf specific stretching programs.
When discussing stretching, it is important to understand the difference between static and dynamic stretching. Static stretching involves taking a muscle to a point of tension and holding that position for a given period of time. This type of stretching should be used after a work out or sports and helps improve overall muscle flexibility. Dynamic stretching consists of functional based exercises that use sport specific movements to prepare the body for athletic activity. This type of stretching should be used as a warm up before sports.
Dr. Harris’ Tips for a good Pre-Round Warm-up:
- Don’t rush to the first tee! Plan on arriving at the course with enough time to complete a 5-minute warm-up plus time to hit a few balls on the range. This will greatly reduce the tightness/stiffness that is usually felt on the first few holes and reduce your risk for injury.
- Before heading to the range to hit balls, perform a 5-minute dynamic stretching warm up. This will get your muscles loose and ready for your round.
- After your warm up, spend 5 – 10 minutes on the range.
- Don’t warm up swinging more than one club at a time. This can lead to compensatory movements in your arms, altered proprioception (balance), and can lead to over-swinging when you go back to a single club.
- On the range, start with a wedge or an iron to work on your swing sequencing. The driver should be the last club you take out of your bag. Remember, a warm up is about finding your swing rhythm; it’s not about power!
- Don’t forget to breathe! Proper breathing will help you with your tempo.
- After your round, spend another 5-minutes cooling down (static stretching).
- Ensure both your warm up and cool down covers shoulders, elbows, wrists, back, hips, and knees to allow your body to be fully prepared for golf.
- Ask for help. If you are currently are dealing with an injury or experiencing pain, consult a health care practitioner to get a proper diagnosis and a customized stretching program that is tailored to your needs.
- If your tee time is in the morning, get to the course a little earlier than usual. Muscles tend to be stiffer and less flexible in the morning.
- If it’s a cold day, spend more time warming-up and wear warmer clothes (layers). Cold weather causes your muscles to stiffen and requires a longer warm-up to achieve the same flexibility as on a warm day.
- Incorporate stretching into your daily practice routine.
Stay Tuned for my next Blog. I will go through a dynamic warm-up that you can perform before your next round of golf!
A Must Read for All Athletes!!
If you are an athlete (at any level), I am about to tell you something you NEED to know, that few people in the medical community talk about, address, or even think about: The difference between Structural and Functional problems. And more notably the often overlooked importance of functionality!
The reason I am writing this is because all too often I observe first hand (or from afar) athletes being misinformed, misguided, mistreated and incompletely diagnosed. Ultimately, this has a negative affect on the athlete’s performance level and longevity! As a functional specialist, I look forward to the day that teams provide their athletes with more complete medical management. But until that day comes, the onus is on the athlete to become more informed and aware of their own health, even if that means that the solutions they are seeking may be outside what is traditionally provided to them!
A Structural problem is when something is broken, missing, or out of place. I.e. a torn muscle, torn tendon, torn ligament, herniated disc, broken bone, dislocated/separated shoulder etc. A structural problem is most often diagnosed through medical imaging (x-ray, ultrasound, MRI, CT scan, bone scan, etc).
A Functional problem is when a body part or a series of body parts are not working properly, and more specifically, not working properly when the body requires movement/motion. This can not be seen on an image because there is nothing structurally wrong with their body and it is actually a problem that involves the MOVING parts (remember, images look at things statically, in a stationary position). A functional problem is best diagnosed through a proper examination which involves the practitioner taking a patient’s history AND running the patient through specific orthopaedic tests (see my previous blog in November 2011, “A proper diagnosis: the key to fixing a problem”).
So herein lies the problem with traditional medical management of athletes, and what I often observe within teams’ management of their players’ health….
If a player or athlete sustains an injury or is experiencing pain…. in most cases they are then sent by the overseeing medical doctor for imaging (which is often the correct move). At this point there are 2 possible results:
1) A structural problem is seen, in which case the medical doctors will devise the correct treatment to fix the structural problem (and in most cases they are the right ones to fix it!!). Or…
2) No structural damage is seen on the image, in which case the athlete is typically told that nothing is wrong; that it’s probably just a “strain”, “tweak”, “bruise” or something minor, and to just rest it or work through it; that it will resolve… NO IT WON’T!!!! This is exactly why you see the same players experiencing the same injuries over and over and over again!! (I will address functional problems in greater detail in my next blog).
So lets say you are diagnosed with a structural problem and the doctors tell you what is needed to correct it; surgery, cast, rehab, injections, etc. In most cases, the suggested treatment is the answer to the structural problem…but they missed something crucial to full recovery – the functional problem!!! Although you can have a functional problem without having a structural problem, you can’t have a structural problem without having a functional problem! For example, if you have a tear (structural problem) of a tendon, you will have a deficit in the way the adjoining muscle functions (contracts, relaxes, range of motion, strength, endurance, etc). Simply repairing the torn tendon (structure) will only get you so far…and will leave you feeling and performing at a fraction of yourself! It will also leave you susceptible to more structural problems down the road (remember, you can tear something more than once!).
In order to fully recover from an injury, a portion of the treatment MUST be targeted at ensuring that the body part(s) are functioning properly, which is most often overlooked and neglected. This, by the way, is exactly why you see players return from an injury that required surgery but they struggle to perform at the level they did prior to the injury. Yes, conditioning plays a factor. But the biggest issue is due to lack of functionality…and until the muscle has regained proper functionality, the player’s performance will be hindered.
Bottom Line: If you have experienced a structural injury which has fully healed but you are wondering why you still don’t feel 100 %….it’s likely because no one has diagnosed and treated the functional impairments to ensure that all the moving parts are working the way they need to.
Stay tuned for my next blog when I better describe functional problems, the way they can be corrected, and what will happen if you leave them untreated!
Stay informed! Stay Healthy!
p.s. sorry for the long read
Golf Season is Here….. Are you ready? By Dr. Stephanie Harris
The warm weather is finally here and golf season is right around the corner! Public courses have already opened their doors for the season and I’m sure a lot of you have already dusted off your clubs and are itching for your first round of golf. With this beautiful weather and the excitement of golf in the air, it’s almost impossible not to run onto the course and get right back into the ‘swing’ of things. But playing your first round of the season can bring both joy and sorrow. Too often I see people come into my office around this time of the year because they’ve injured themselves on the golf course very early in the season. So I thought I’d post some tips on how to get you ready and keep you healthy for the golf season:
- Go to the range (a few times) before your first round.
- At the range, take your time. Spend 1 – 3 minutes with each shot and go through your routine each time. Avoid hitting too many balls in a short period of time, which will only increase your chance of injury!
- Work on flexibility. A good daily stretching routine will work wonders on how you feel both on and off the course.
- There is still time to improve your balance and strength. Get into the gym and work on the areas that need to be addressed.
- A few lessons pre-season are always a great idea to help get you back into proper swing mechanics.
There is still time to work on these tips before your first tee time. Try a few and you’ll see the difference it will make in how you feel on and off the course.
Stay tuned for my next post, which will discuss the do’s and don’ts of stretching before golf.
Dr. Harris is trained through the Titleist Performance Institute as a certified golf fitness instructor. She is an expert in golf swing biomechanics and uses physical screening techniques, specialized manual therapy and specific exercise prescriptions to identify and eliminate physical restrictions within one’s golf swing. She believes that to achieve consistency and power in your golf game, the key is fixing the root of the problem.