I hope last week’s article highlighted the importance of the role your body and physiotherapy plays in the golf swing. I want to help a golfer of any level play better golf, by becoming a better athlete. As low back pain is the number 1 complaint of golfers, I am going to begin writing a series of blog posts regarding low back pain in our game.
This post coincides with Rickie Fowler recently winning the Honda Classic. I like Rickie as a golfer, and for his efforts at growing the game by appealing to the younger generation by wearing bright colourful clothing & spending time with the kids. He notched up his fourth tour win and this has taken him to the 9th ranked player in the world. He has often been maligned as a golfer and has faced a lot of scrutiny in the media for not living up to his potential. He has turned around his career by employing swing coach Butch Harmon to help prove his critics wrong by addressing his swing mechanics. One of the major reasons for him seeking out a coach to make changes to his swing was in order to protect his lower back. It was well documented in the media that Rickie would experience lower back pain until he made the changes suggested by Butch Harmon.
Dave Rose from TPI highlights the changes Rickie has made to protect his spine in the following video:
Dave points out that in Rickie’s old swing (above left photo), he would drop his left shoulder in a tilting manner to initiate his swing, this would then lead to his spine angling towards the target during his backswing. This is known as a reverse spine angle and is demonstrated in the picture below. As you can see, the yellow line representing the spine is pointed towards the target, whereas we want the spine to be pointed behind the golfer. This swing fault leads to lower back by compressing the joints in the spine, as the body has to compensate to find a way to power the downswing. It also reduces the golfer’s ability to hit better shots as it leads to a loss of power and accuracy.
There are many golf swing reasons as to why a golfer may move into a reverse spine angle. However I want to focus on the physical restrictions a golfer may be experiencing if they are showing the tendency to move into a reverse spine angle during their swing. The two most common physical traits of a golfer that move into a reverse spine angle include;
- Poor hip flexibility of the trail leg
If a golfer has poor hip flexibility (internal rotation) on their trail leg then they will have difficulty achieving an effective hip turn on their backswing. Instead of loading up into their right hips, they will load up their spine and bend in the wrong direction. Limited hip internal rotation has been shown to be a key predictor of golfers and low back pain.Here is a nice gentle exercise to help improve both hip internal and external flexibility: http://www.mytpi.com/exercises#hip_drops
- If you don’t have a flexibility restriction in the trail leg, then I would suspect your body to have a poor ability to separate movement from the upper body from the lower body.Assuming you have adequate mobility of your trail leg, then you need to have the ability to independently move their upper body separately to their lower body. If they can’t, they will rotate as one solid unit and the spine will compensate by going into a lateral tilt. As a TPI qualified physiotherapist, I have the ability to evaluate your body with a physical examination to see if you have this movement pattern.If you suspect you do, here is a great exercise to help you learn how to separate movement from your upper body to your lower body; http://www.mytpi.com/exercises#horizontal_chops_-_wide_to_narrow_base
I always recommend having an individual TPI assessment of your body if you are a golfer who is experiencing pain, looking for a preventative approach to injuries or are looking to gain the extra percentage physically to help your performance. If you are a golfer experiencing low back pain, then follow this blog series as I delve into other swing faults and physical factors that may be affecting your swing. If you have any questions, then send through an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. In our next blog post, I will be going stripping back to the basics of golf and talking about your spine during your posture. If you are an office worker and spend 40 plus hours a week sitting, and then expect to have an athletic golf swing like Rory Mcilroy or Tiger woods then think again. I will cover how to improve your postural muscles in our next blog to avoid suffering from back pain.
Optimise your body to optimise your swing.
The Golfers Mechanic
TPI certified Physiotherapist