I don’t know about you, but I’m a HUGE Seinfeld fan (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The show aired at a time in my life when I could relate to the characters and I would later come to appreciate them even more when I moved to NYC in 2005. I even ate at the famous “Seinfeld Diner“, which is on 112th St. and Broadway. It’s not all that good, but people go there because it’s famous.
In one of its most famous episodes known as “The Contest“, the gang bet to see who can hold out the longest without ‘pleasuring themselves’. In the scene depicted below, George famously describes to Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer that he’s ‘out’, after succumbing to the temptations of a Glamour Magazine while at his parents’ house. His mother finds him literally with his pants down and falls, hurting her back.
What does this episode have to do with golf? Well, nothing except for the phrase, “My back, my back”!
Golf Related Injuries
The rotational forces of the golf swing place a lot of stress on the body. Even a body that is working optimally. If your body isn’t working quite up to par (pun intended), then the likelihood of injuries goes way up! The most common of which is low back pain. Low back pain is followed by:
Golf Is Rotation
“To golf at full potential, the golfer must possess the ability to rotate almost every joint in his body to its functional capacity. If there are movement restrictions in the shoulder girdle, torso, pelvis, or hips, there will be compensation somewhere else in the musculoskeletal system.”__The Golf Biomechanics Manual, Paul Chek
The result of such compensation is most often seen as faults in the golf swing. But that’s the least of a golfer’s worries. Continuing to place rotational forces on a body that just isn’t capable of rotation is a recipe for injury.
A Word on Injury and Pain
In the Western medicine model, patients go to the doctor when they have pain. The doctor is primarily concerned with giving that pain a name and then giving the patient a pharmaceutic that takes the pain away. This is analogous to there being a leak in your ceiling, and instead of searching for where the leak is coming from, simply patching up the hole in the ceiling.
“My Back, My Back”
So why is the low back so susceptible to injury? Well, it’s quite simple in concept. The lower back (or lumbar spine) is the weight-bearing section of the spine. The lumbar vertebrae are quite thick and work best in flexion and extension (or in other words, forward and backward bending). They don’t do well when asked to rotate. However, the segments above (the thoracic spine) and below (the hips) are designed to rotate. The problem is that on most of you, they don’t!
A TPI professional is trained to view your body and how it functions by using the Joint-by-Joint model. The human body works in this alternating pattern of stable segments and mobile segments. When the pattern is altered for any reason we see compensation and dysfunction of the joints above and/or below. In other words, bad things happen! Irritation, Inflammation, Pain, Injury, Surgery.
In the TPI Level 1 certification, we learn to evaluate the body using a screening process that helps to identify what’s working well and what’s not. The screens that help us identify how the T-spine and Hips are working are known as the Seated Trunk Rotation Test and the Lower Quarter Rotation Test. Notice the word ROTATION.
We have certain segments of the body that are stable (lumbar spine) and certain segments that are mobile (thoracic spine, hips), if you lose rotation capacity in those areas and ask the body for rotation, it will seek it elsewhere that elsewhere is, you guessed it, the stabile segment stuck between them, the lumbar spine.
Most often the results of these tests show poor rotary capabilities in the segments both above and below.
Here are a few examples of what poor Thoracic Rotation looks like. To pass this test, you should be able to rotate the spine 45 degrees or more. Forty-five degrees means that the stick on the player’s back would match up to the stick that’s on the floor.
Here are a few examples of what poor Lower Quarter Rotation looks like. To pass this test, you should be able to rotate the entire lower quarter 60 degrees, 45 degrees of that should come from the hip.
As you can see, these players are nowhere close to that line on the ground. The first image represents a right-handed golfer’s ability to rotate into his trail leg and load it up. Not that great, as you can see. The two images after that demonstrate the lack of lead hip internal rotational capability.
*Internal Rotation of the lead hip is paramount for allowing the lower body to fully rotate without forward towards the ball.
How it affects the body, hopefully, is more obvious to you now that you understand the connection between how the body is supposed to work and how it typically does in nearly all amateur golfers.
Your Brain and Your Swing
You get up to the ball and try to rotate the club all the way up like the guys you see on TV. But, like most males who work at a desk for 10 hours a day, you have mobility restrictions in the hips and the thoracic spine. What does the body do? It will give you what you’re looking for, but that rotation is going to come from your lower back. And if you do that for 18 holes, and for some of you, day after day, you will have lower back pain! It’s not a question of if, it’s a matter of when.
Your Pattern Is Broken
The Level 1 Screen is the best way to determine whether or not your pattern is broken. Are the segments that are designed to be mobile (move freely in 3 directions) working sufficiently enough to avoid injury? If they’re not, then let’s start working on them and improve how they move.
That’s the first step in helping you achieve, “Longer Drives, Lower Scores, Fewer Injuries”
Brett’s Bottom Line:
Many GOLF athletes accept nagging injuries and ailments as just a byproduct of their sport (No Pain, no gain). But by following a carefully designed exercise program that conditions the golfer specifically for the game of golf, the risk of injury can be greatly reduced.
END OF PART 1