Stretching, exercise can increase golf longevity

Dr. Mark Gulyas maintains a private practice in Clinton Township, Mich., and has worked with many top athletes and sports teams. He specializes in sports-related injuries and prevention.

Golf might not be a contact sport – I’ve never heard of a flagrant foul or high-sticking penalty being assessed on the sixth hole – but injuries still can occur while playing golf.

Contrary to what most television viewers might think, golf is a physically demanding sport. Core flexibility and stamina are crucial in maintaining the distance we tend to lose as we age.

The lack of a proper warm-up regimen during the season, and the failure to maintain a flexibility program during the off-season, can lead to injuries that are often more problematic than a broken ankle in football or shoulder dislocation in hockey.

Most golf injuries, such as spinal disc and ligament sprains, are soft tissue in nature. In reality, these types of injuries can be difficult to treat and can easily become chronic if not handled properly.

Lower-back problems caused by torsion stress can appear after a round of golf or practice session. Muscle tightness can also lead to reduced movement, causing a reduction in rotation that can have an adverse effect on the swing plane.

Twisting your torso while maintaining your balance is tough for most of us as we age. Without a strong core and pliable muscles in your stomach, hips, butt and lower back, you can’t make a golf swing that has power and is technically sound.

Remember, sore leads to an increase in score. As we age, our muscle tone and body strength begin to decline so it’s important to strengthen – and more importantly, stretch – the muscles related to the golf swing. Working on the golf muscles along with a few flexibility drills during the off season will improve accuracy, consistency and help maintain power.

It’s a common-sense thing: The more flexible we are in taking the club back and the more strength we have in making our downswing, the farther and more accurately we are going to hit the ball. Flexibility and strength exercises are vital.

Many of my colleagues who deal with sports-related injuries feel the same – the best treatment for any injury is to avoid it.

“I have seen the impact golf can have on the joints and especially the spine,” said Dr. Thomas Nabity, a noted physical medicine and rehab specialist. “Over swinging, poor technique and improper warm up are the most common causes of golf-related injuries. A proper stretching/strengthening program done on a regular basis can go a long way in preventing injuries and keep you on the course for years to come.”

Take the prevention of golf injuries as serious as the game itself. Use these five tips to keep you in golf shape:

  1. Stretch before, during and after your round.
  2. Make sure your work-out regime covers all of the golf muscles – core, back, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips and knees.
  3. Make sure your warm-up routine involves slow, prolonged stretches within a pain-free range.
  4. Use a golf-specific training routine. It should include a series of rotational exercises. Remember, flexibility is the key to maintaining low scores.
  5. Make stretching part of your practice routine. Take time between practice shots to stretch and stay loose.

I can’t emphasis this enough - start stretching today! And, if you don’t know how to properly stretch or are interested in developing a more comprehensive golf flexibility program, call your local chiropractor or physiotherapist to develop a program specifically for you.

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