To avoid getting hurt on the green, experts say: Be flexible and get strong in your core. Golfers can do specific stretches and exercises to help them not only avoid injury but also play their best game, says Timothy Ertle, MPT, Physical Therapist, Cleveland Clinic Sports Health.
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Being better conditioned helps people avoid injury related to repetitive movements, which cause 82 percent of all golf injuries.
Consider that the average golfer takes about 9,000 swings per year, including rounds played and time spent practicing at the range. The lumbar spine is most vulnerable to injury because each full golf swing places the spine at (or near) the end-range of available spine movement. Gaining flexibility and strength in this area is important.
Golfers who are more flexible can hit the ball further, because they are able to recoil more energy into their backswing and release this energy when they strike the golf ball.
One good stretch for the lumbar spine is the open book stretch. This stretch improves lumbar rotation range of motion and is helpful in improving your backswing flexibility.
To perform the stretch:
- Lay on your right side and bring your knees up to your chest and your arms out straight in front of you on the ground, palms together.
- Bring your right hand to the top of your left leg. Use your right hand to keep your knees stacked.
- Open your left arm up like a book, turning your head to look to your left hand. Your left hand does not need to touch the floor, but may. Just remember to keep your knees stacked.
You will feel the stretch from your tailbone to the base of your skull. To “close” the book, bring your left arm back over to your right just like the starting position. Hold the stretch for 15 seconds and repeat the sequence three to five times on both sides of your body. You can use this stretch every day.
Golfer’s strength exercise
A strong core allows a golfer to maintain his or her spine angle and the stability of each spinal segment while the body moves through each phase of the golf swing.
This is important because, as the number of strokes increases, so does the potential for fatigue, which leads to a gradual loss of coordination of the deep muscles that control and stabilize the spine. The lumbar joints, disc and muscles are then more susceptible to forces leading to a potential joint breakdown, sprains and strains.
Incorporate a good core strengthening exercise into your regimen three to five times a week. One exercise to try is the prone alternating leg extension.
To perform the exercise:
- Lie over an exercise ball and find your center of balance by touching your hands and forefoot to the floor.
- Then alternate lifting each leg off of the floor, without hyper-extending.
Do twenty repetitions to complete a set (ten for each leg), and work your way up to three sets.
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