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Reducing injury and lowering your golf score

Don't let nagging back pain hold back your game. Dr. Heather Moore offers some strengthening exercises that will keep you on the course through the summer.

Golf season is in full swing. Many of you have already played your first rounds and are gearing up for a great season. In the excitement are the thoughts and hopes of lowering your score, achieving the hole in one and reducing your handicap. No one ever thinks of injury as they are making the big plans in their head.

However, injuries in golf are far too common and can make or break your score. While back pain is the most common pain felt by golfers, players can be afflicted with pain in any part of the body. If you feel pain, you can bet your score will reflect it.

One of the most common misconceptions with golf is that if you have pain—be it in the back or elsewhere—that you should stretch. Most of the time you need strengthening, not stretching. While there are some stretches that need to be performed, there are more strengthening exercises that will help avoid injury.

There are very specific muscles used in golf and these muscles need to be strengthened in order to meet the demands of swinging a club at a high velocity and with keen precision. The stronger these muscles are the further you will be able to drive the ball.

The stronger these muscles are, the more precise you are going to be with your shot.

The stronger these muscles are, the more likely you are to avoid injury.

  1. The plank. The plank will increase strength in your abdominals. This increased strength will give your back some support and allow you to drive further.

In this exercise you lie on your stomach and prop yourself up on your elbows. Then in a push up motion you hold yourself up using your toes and your forearms.   It should be a straight line from the forearms to the head and from the heels to your head. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat 4 times. Pay careful attention to contract your abdominals and not to let your stomach sag.

  1. The side plank. Training all aspects of your abdominals will help protect your low back from injury. It will also help with your accuracy and distance you hit the ball. Lay on either side with your body in a straight line. In a push up motion, push yourself up onto your feet and elbow so that your body is supported with your foot and forearm. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 4 times both sides.

  2. The reverse plank. Lay on your back and keeping your body straight push up onto your hands and your heels. Hold for 30 seconds 4 times.

  3. Shoulder external rotation. Lay on either side with your arm resting on your side. Bend your elbow to 90 degrees. Starting with your arm laying across your stomach and keeping your elbow on your side, rotate your arm upwards. Repeat this 30 times. Weight may be added if you are able to perform 30 without difficulty. Perform both sides.

  4. Single leg stance. This is exactly as it sounds. Stand on one leg and close your eyes. You may stand on a pillow if you are able to stand for 30 seconds with your eyes closed. Perform 10 on each leg as long as you can.

  5. Hip Abduction. Standing on a stair, lift one leg straight out to the side. Try to perform 30 on each leg without having the foot in the air touch down.

  6. Sleeper stretch. Lay on one side with the arm that you are laying on brought up to 90 degrees. Gently apply pressure to the back of the hand trying to get the palm to touch the table. Hold for 30 seconds, 6 times each side.

  7. Hip figure 4 stretch. Lay on your back cross one ankle over the opposite knee. Pull the knee that the ankle is crossed over to the chest. Hold 30 seconds and perform 6 times.

Perform these exercises 3-4 times a week for optimal health and golf performance!

Dr. Heather Moore, PT, DPT, CKTP, is the owner of Total Performance Physical Therapy in North Wales. She has worked with athletes of all abilities and most notably spent time working on the PGA and LPGA Tours as a physical therapist.

Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.