"Why do Injuries Occur in Golf?"

By: Sean Cochran

Injuries occur in all athletic events quite frequently, certainsports more so than others. Golf is no different than any othersport. The severity of injuries in golf usually are not assevere as in other sports. The scenario of a 300 lb. defensivelineman slamming into the side of your knee tearing everypossible ligament structure in the knee will never happen in thesport of golf. An interesting visual if you combined the sportsof football and golf onto the same playing field, butinappropriate for this paper.

There are two types of injuries classified by professionals inthe fields of athletic training and sports medicine. The twotypes of injuries are: 1) acute and 2) chronic. The aboveexample of the football player is classified as an acute injury.An acute injury can be defined as the trauma in the bodyoccurring immediately after the injury. Refer to the footballplayer example above for a reminder. (For us older golfers,remember Joe Theisman of the Redskins and Lawrence Taylor's legbreaking tackle? Acute injury.) Relating an acute injury to golfis a little more difficult. Probably the easiest, and maybe mostthe common, acute injury in golf, occurs while swinging and youhit a rock or something that creates an injury to your wrist.That would be the best example in the sport of golf of an acuteinjury. Overall, acute injuries tend to be rare in golf becausecontact by the body with external forces is rare.

My back is always killing me!

The second type of injury, chronic, is much more prevalent whenit comes to the sport of golf. A chronic injury is one thatoccurs over time. Think of it as a "wear and tear" injury. Theseare usually the result of the body breaking down over time. Agreat sports example outside of golf is when you hear about abaseball pitcher having tendonitis in the elbow. Tendonitis isan inflammation of the elbow resulting from the stresses placedupon it from throwing. Over time the elbow becomes tired andeventually injured from the number of pitches thrown. If you area runner and, after a certain amount of time, your knees beginto hurt, this is usually a chronic injury. When we talk aboutgolf, the majority of injuries are chronic. They tend to be adirect result of the golf swing (just like the pitcher's elbow).Usually the chronic injuries in golf show up in the lower back.If chronic injuries are caught soon enough in the cycle, restand proper treatment (i.e. massage, chiropractic care) will healthem. But if you wait too long the body is going to "break," andthen you will not be playing any golf for a long time. This iswhere the unfortunate situation of surgery and other invasiveprocedures are considered.

So a couple of questions we must ask when it comes to chronicinjuries in relation to golf are: how do they occur, and how dowe prevent them? Chronic injuries occur as a result of the bodybecoming fatigued and eventually "breaking down." The muscles,ligaments, and tendons of your body are required to perform theactivity of swinging a golf club. Over time this activity causesfatigue within your body. As the body continues to fatigue, orget tired, the body gets sore. This is the first indicator of adeveloping chronic injury. If you continue with the activityyou're participating in, with soreness in the body, eventuallyyour body will break down. This "break down" will be in the formof maybe a pulled muscle, muscle stiffness, tightness, or someother type of inflammation. All of the above examples are aresult of structures in your body breaking down from fatigue andoveruse. Even if just on one swing you feel "your back go out,"nine out of ten times it is a chronic injury, and that lastswing was the "piece of straw that broke the camel's back."

How to Prevent Chronic Injuries in Golf

We all know that the golf swing is a repetitive movement,meaning the body is performing the same activity over and overagain. This creates fatigue in the body over time. And if overtime our body can't support the number of swings we are taking,it is eventually going to break down. There are three variableswe have when it comes to the prevention of chronic injuries ingolf. Number one is workloads. Workloads can be defined as thenumber of swings that the body takes with a club over a givenperiod of time. That time frame can be seven days or an entiretour season. Number two is efficiency of your mechanics. When wesay "efficiency of mechanics" we are talking about howbiomechanically correct your individual swing is. "Why is thisimportant?" you ask. Let me tell you. I think most of us wouldagree that the tour players have very "efficient" swings; theirswings are smooth and look almost effortless. A swing like thisasks less out of the body to perform and requires less effortfrom the muscles; hence fatiguing levels in the body are lower.Some amateur swings look like they take a lot of work toperform, and in reality they do! These types of swings ask a lotmore out of the body and fatigue it more quickly. The finalvariable is what we term "golf strength." Golf strength is ameasure of the required levels of flexibility, strength,endurance, balance, and power to successfully support themechanics of the swing. Large amounts of golf strength allow thebody to support an efficient swing. Low levels of golf strengthdo not provide the support needed for the swing.

Workloads, Swing Mechanics, and Golf Strength

All three of these variables work together to determine if youare a candidate for a chronic golf injury. Golf strength isessentially the foundation upon which your swing is built. Thisvariable indicates how many times you can swing a golf club withyour current mechanics before you come up injured. If you havehigh levels of golf strength then regardless of how efficient ofa swing you have, you will be able to play for quite awhilebefore you get sore. The flip side can also be said. If you havelow levels of golf strength, regardless of your swing mechanics,you will come up sore in a shorter amount of time.

Secondly, let us look at swing mechanics. If you are a playerthat has a very efficient swing that places very little stresson the body, you will undoubtedly be able to play many roundsbefore your body starts screaming at you. Again, if you havepoor mechanics, it is going to take its toll on your body andyour game.

Finally, we have workloads (i.e. number of swings). The numberof swings one makes must match up with levels of golf strengthand swing mechanics. The golf swing is a "stressor" of the bodyand breaks it down over time. If you have an efficient swing,each swing does less "damage" to the body. If you have a poorswing, the body has to work harder, thus fatiguing it morequickly. In addition to this is golf strength. If you have highlevels of golf strength, you can swing the club more (i.e.workloads) before you get tired. Low levels of golf strengthpresent the situation of the body's fatiguing more quickly. "Sowhat is the magic formula?" you ask. My first suggestion istwofold: 1) work on your swing to improve the efficiency of it,and 2) increase your levels of golf strength in order to supportyour swing. For the time being, match up your swing and golfstrength levels to determine what workload levels you can getout of your body. If you are in need of some more information onthe golf strength side of the equation, take a look atwww.bioforcegolf.com.

About the Author

Sean Cochran is one of the most recognized golf fitnessinstructors in the world today. He travels the PGA Tourregularly with 2005 PGA & 2004 Masters Champion Phil Mickelson.He has made many of his golf tips, golf instruction and golfswing improvement techniques available to amateur golfers on thewebsite www.bioforcegolf.com. To contact Sean, you can email himat support@bioforcegolf.com.

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