How To Improve Your Golf Game While Avoiding Back, Shoulder Pain

By Dr. Benny Salanitro

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have turned to the golf course as a way to get outdoors for a safe and socially distanced form of exercise.

Over the last year-and-a-half, there has been an influx of new golfers. The sport has also seen a dramatic change in how it is played.

On tour, players are hitting the ball further and harder than ever before, often sacrificing accuracy in attempts to hit the ball as hard as they can. This change in thinking has not only changed how the game is played, but also how we train for golf-specific movements.

As golfers attempt to tap into more distance and more swing speed, the risk of injury also increases. Injuries occurring from overuse are common for golfers of all skill levels, particularly the crop of newer golfers, whose swings have yet to be refined and mastered.

Common overuse injuries include the low back, hip, elbow and wrist. Studies have found that during the golf swing, ground reaction forces can be 6.5 to eight times your body weight immediately after impact. This force, combined with the repetitive and unilateral rotational forces throughout the golf swing, are what often lead to injury.

However, with an appropriate screening and training program, injury risk can be reduced and performance can be improved. The key to success, however, is identifying an appropriate training program for each golfer.

Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) has been recognized as the leader in golf fitness and golf health. The founders of TPI have created a program that is used among physical therapists, trainers, chiropractors and golf professionals to speak the same language regarding an athlete’s physical limitations and how they correlate to a variety of swing flaws.

Recent major winners such as Jon Rahm (2021 U.S. Open champion) and Phil Mickelson (2021 PGA champion) have both credited their work with TPI in helping to improve their game. In the case of Mickelson, he has attributed his work with TPI in helping to provide career longevity, which has helped allow him to keep up with today’s younger golfers, becoming the first person to win a major at 50 years old.

The key to a TPI evaluation is understanding how each athlete’s body moves. There is not one correct way for everyone to swing a golf club. The importance in utilizing a TPI program is to help make a golf swing that is most efficient for each individual. This means identifying the strengths and weaknesses of each athlete and developing a program to address these areas.

For some golfers this may mean focusing on improved rotation or mobility from the hips, while for others it could simply be a lack of strength or core stability. Without a comprehensive examination, however, it is impossible to identify which areas to focus on.

Understanding how your body moves is an important aspect in improving your golf game and limiting injury risk. Whether working with a golf professional, a trainer or simply going to the driving range or watching YouTube videos, it is important to understand what movements your body is capable of achieving. A golfer can watch a video of Tiger Woods swinging his driver and spend hours trying to recreate his swing, but if that athlete’s body is not physically capable of moving that way, he or she will never be able to achieve that swing pattern.

For all golfers looking to improve their game and reduce injury risk, consider utilizing the help of a physical therapist, golf professional or TPI certified specialist. In addition to a full body exam to identify where your body moves well and any limitations you may have, a specialist can help to develop a comprehensive program to emphasize these strengths and target any deficiencies.

Dr. Benny Salanitro is a licensed physical therapist at ProClinix Sports Physical Therapy & Chiropractic in Armonk. He is an orthopedic certified specialist (OCS) and is Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) certified. Salanitro can be reached at 914-202-0700 or at bsalanitro@proclinix.com.

 

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