Can we really prevent injury in sports?
I want to talk about the concept of injury prevention or what should really be called, injury reduction. Injuries are a normal part of sport and life and can be a normal part of putting stress on your body. With that being said there are some things we can do to reduce the chances of injury but regardless of what some “experts” out there claim there's nothing we can do that's going to 100% eliminate injuries or prevent us from getting injured. When looking at injury reduction, there are some specific things that we can look at in how we train, move and practice to help reduce a chance of injury and reduce a chance of pain especially for those high-level golfers that play a lot of golf and make a lot of swings during practice and play.
The first area that I'm going to look at is mobility and with golf we need to be able to move well enough through our rotational centers. The first area that we need to rotate well through is our hips, decreased hip rotation, especially lack of hip internal rotation has some correlations with low back pain in golfers. Next is going to be our thoracic spine or trunk/mid-back area. Third, we need to be able to rotate through our neck and shoulders. Lastly, is that we need to have the ability to separate our upper and lower body in the swing. Having proper mobility in those areas will help reduce the stress on the joints and help create the proper movement needed for an efficient golf swing without putting stress on other areas of the body that can be prone to injury in golf.
The next area we need to discuss is the need to have a solid strength base. In my experience this is the biggest area that golfers don't invest in. When I say strong, I am referring to at least a bodyweight squat, bodyweight and a half to 2x bodyweight deadlift, and probably at least a 75% body weight bench press. Most golfers that I work with aren’t close to those numbers when they start out. There is tons of research showing that resistance training or strength training can help reduce repetitive use injuries and in golf that's going to be the biggest cause of pain and injury. Strengthening our bodies through basic compound movements like squats, deadlifts, lunges, pressing and pulling can help reduce that risk and improve our bodies ability to absorb the forces that the golf swing puts on it.
Diving deeper in to strength training, we are going to talk about the three phases of a muscular contraction that we can train: the eccentric, isometric and concentric phases. Training the eccentric would be, if I'm going to do a bicep curl, I'm going to slowly lower the weight from the top position so that I am controlling that lengthening of that muscle. This is generally performed in a slower, more controlled movement. The concentric would be moving the weight up from the bottom position and is generally performed in a quicker fashion. Lastly, an isometric hold would be holding in a position against a force involving co contraction of multiple muscles. Incorporating all three of those type of contractions in our training will help build resiliency of a muscular system to creating and absorbing the forces of the golf swing.
Lastly, lets talk about managing our reps and managing the load we put on our body through training, practice and play. I like to talk about the concept of minimum effective dose. Whether that's in the gym or on the practice tee, making sure that we are focusing on quality over quantity. We need to focus on doing what's needed to accomplish your goals but not just beating balls or doing a bunch of unnecessary exercises that aren’t going to benefit you. We also need to make sure that we prioritize sleep and recovery, making sure we are feeding our bodies well from the nutrition standpoint.
So, in summary in order to reduce some of the injury risk within the golf swing, we need to move well through our rotational centers, we need to get strong, we need to train and practice smart and lastly recover and feed our bodies well. If you're dealing with injuries or pain feel free to reach out you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org