The lower back is one of the most problematic areas of the body for golfers. Injuries are common, but there are ways to prevent them.
Long-term preventative strategies to avoid lower-back injuries
1. Attempt to maintain or improve flexibility. The hamstrings, hips, lumbar spine and torso are an important part of the kinetic chain of the golf swing. If the athlete has limited range of motion (flexibility) of the hamstring, hips and torso then the back will be required to compensate with additional forces going through the lumbar spine. This will place the athlete at greater risk of developing lower-back injuries.
2. Maintain or improve core strength. The muscles of the core include the pelvic, abdominal and lumbar muscles. These muscles act to protect the joints during the golf swing. The stronger the core, the greater the ability to generate club-head speed. This allows greater distance and control during the golf swing. A golfer can prevent injuries and improve performance by maintaining or improving core strength.
3. Maintain an appropriate body weight. This is best way to determine the overall fitness of an individual. An appropriate goal for a male golfer is to have a body fat percentage less than 16 percent while an appropriate goal for a female golfer is to have a body fat percentage less than 24 percent.
4. Address swing mechanic abnormalities. The golf swing applies significant force over the lumbar spine. Common swing faults such as hanging back and reverse spine angle may contribute to low back injuries.
Short-term strategies to avoid lower-back injuries
- Plan to warm up prior to playing golf. A dynamic warm-up is best. This includes movement along with stretching. The dynamic warm up activates your muscles and improves range of motion. The dynamic warm up improves body awareness and enhances muscular performance and power. There is less likelihood of injury in muscles that are warm, loose and performing well.
- Take practice swings with all categories of clubs. It is important for the back and other joints to have had warm up swings with the driver, irons and wedges prior to the round. A gradual increase in velocity of the swing over a period of 5-10 minutes will allow the joints and muscles to actively engage in the demand that is required in an 18-hole round.
- Be mindful of how the golf bag is being carried. Certain lifting and moving techniques may cause stress over the lower back region.
- Stay hydrated during the round. Muscles require proper hydration in order to operate effectively and dehydration may lead to dysfunction. This may contribute to abnormal mechanics and subsequent injury.
- Recovery. Attempt to reduce inflammation and allow muscle repair through modalities of cold therapy, massage, proper nutrition and sleep. Avoid excessive alcohol, caffeine and nicotine. If an injury occurs, address the injury with a professional sooner rather than later—it is important to seek proper professional advice on injuries prior to participating in another round of golf.
See also: Summer Sun Protection