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Physical Therapy for Golf

Physical Therapy for golf is something that has been happening for years behind the scenes. With players like Tiger Woods and others, in the past decade the sport of golf has become associated with a higher level of fitness and physical expectation than ever before. On the Tour, many golfers now have their own personal Physical Therapist to help them avoid injury and improve their physical performance on and off the course.

Golf is an extremely popular sport- particularly here in Tucson. Men, women, and children of all ages can be seen out on the greens at many of the local courses. Popularity continues to grow. With the rise in numbers of people playing golf, we have seen a rise in golf related injuries. Like any sport, the most important piece of equipment is the human body. Many think it’s that new $2,000 driver! The best clubs in the world cannot compensate for a poorly tuned body—and that’s where a Physical Therapist comes in to help. Physical Therapy for Golf is something you should consider if you have any of the following:

Common Injuries in Golf

  • Low Back Pain
  • Sciatica
  • Herniated Disc
  • Golfer’s Elbow
  • Hip Pain
  • Shoulder Pain
  • Hand and Wrist Pain
  • Neck Pain

Things That May Increase Injury Risk

Each golfer is an individual with his or her own intrinsic risk factors. Many people have heard others say “golf is bad for your back”. A Physical Therapist would redirect that statement to say “A poorly conditioned back is not good for golf”! So the body must be ready for the high demands that the golf swing can put on the body.

If a marathon runner trained for the marathon by only running a mile every day, most people would say they were crazy to think they would be able to do a marathon. As a golfer, if you are not conditioning your body for the demands of the golf swing, in a way it is the same thing. Golf is a repetitive sport that requires adequate conditioning and flexibility to do it right. There are certain things Physical Therapists look for to make sure a golfer is in good condition to perform the golf swing. Physical Therapy for golf in Tucson may address the following:

Common physical risk factors for golf injuries include (the body):

  • Poor flexibility in the Spine. With limited mobility, and the rotational demands of the golf swing, this can cause undue stress on the joints and discs in the low back
  • Poor Hip flexibility. When the hips lack mobility, stress is put on the lumbar spine. Poor hip flexibility can also cause a golfer to overextend the shoulder, creating strain in the muscles of the shoulders and elbows
  • Poor shoulder flexibility. From backswing to follow through, there is a lot of mobility required in the upper body. If the shoulders are tight and cannot move the way they need to, strain is put on other areas of the body- including the upper back, low back and elbows.
  • Limited Ankle Mobility. If the foot and ankle are stiff and cannot rotate, some other area of the body has to take up the slack and do more of the rotation. The knees and hips generally take the hit from this lack of mobility, but structures as high as the lumbar spine can even be affected.
  • Weakness in the “Core”. The core muscles include the abdominal muscles, gluteal muscles and others. They serve to stabilize the spine and pelvis as large movements are undertaken by the rest of the body. If the “Core” is weak, this can cause abnormal movement and shearing in the spine, pelvis and hips. Not only can this leave you at risk for injury, but it can also affect how far you can drive the ball!
  • Weakness in the stabilizers of the shoulders and shoulder blades. Power comes from not only the lower body, but also from the shoulder blades and rotator cuff of the shoulders. Weakness in this area can have detrimental effects on the shoulders and elbows. Just like baseball pitchers need a strong upper body to deliver a 95 mile and hour fastball, golfers need upper body strength and stability for those long drives. With more power comes more distance.
  • Balance Problems. Have you ever tried to sink a put and found yourself off balance or losing your balance? Balance doesn’t get the credit it deserves when it comes to golf performance. Being unsteady can cause minor to major injury as other parts of the body have to compensate for this lack of stability. And we know, golf is many times won in the short game. Improving balance just a little can have a direct effect on that putting accuracy!

Common risk factors outside the body:

Risk of injury is not limited to the problems in the body, but can also be linked to factors that are outside the body.

  • Environmental conditions. Playing on a course that has a lot of uneven terrain or one that is poorly maintained can put a player at risk for spraining an ankle or other injury
  • Weather. In the Southwest high levels of heat can predispose a golfer to a heat related illness like heat exhaustion or heat stroke. It’s important to stay hydrated and cool especially in the summer heat. Having an early tee time can help reduce risk of a heat related condition.
  • Equipment. Poorly fit clubs, or clubs that are damaged can put the athlete at risk. (Golfers feel free to use this as evidence that you need that next new $2,000 driver!)
  • Other factors- Hitting the ground with a club, injuries from golf carts and being hit by an errant ball are all real possibilities while you are out there. Stay alert and be especially careful if you are taking part in any alcohol consumption while you are driving the golf cart!

Injury Prevention

Other ways to avoid injury include:

  • Have a PRO look at your swing mechanics to make sure bad swing mechanics are not causing undue stress on the body
  • Make sure you warm up prior to driving balls on the range or playing a round of golf
  • Selecting clubs with a larger grip may help reduce injury risk
  • Using softer grips
  • Drink plenty of water or sports drinks to avoid heat related problems
  • Avoid alcohol consumption while playing
  • Perform a specific strength and conditioning program provided by your Physical Therapist
  • Have a golf PRO help you select equipment and make sure of proper fit

Fun Facts

  • Players that hit more # of balls in a week have a higher risk of injury
  • Players that warm up prior to playing have 50% fewer injuries than those that don’t
  • Follow through phase is the phase with the highest potential risk for injury
  • Did you know that having the strength to “stop and slow down” the follow through is the most important factor in prevention of injuries in that phase?
  • Having adequate flexibility is the #1 most impactful thing you can do right now to decrease your injury risk

Do you have any of these?

  • Golfer’s elbow
  • Low back pain
  • Sciatica
  • Back sprain
  • Herniated disc
  • Shoulder Pain
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Cervical or neck pain

A Physical Therapist can help you find the problems in your body that may be causing these conditions. Mention this article to Bodycentral Physical Therapy schedulers and you can receive a free consult with one of the Doctors of Physical Therapy to see what we can do to help. Visit for more information on how Physical Therapy can help you.