Golf and Lower Back Injury

Golf can be played and appreciated regardless of age, gender, or athletic ability, with the World Golf Foundation expecting there to be 55 million participants by the year 2020. However, many golfers do not understand the risk that golf poses to body and in particular the lower back, through the repetitive and cumulative nature of the game. The potential for lower back injury is often exacerbated by playing without warming up and stretching, and focussing unnecessarily on power and distance.

The golf swing is a complicated action with intrinsic and extrinsic factors affecting our ability to hit the ball with power and accuracy. It is this complexity, coupled with the tremendous amount of generated force and the repetitive nature of the golf swing that have been identified as major risk factors for low back disorders. Low back injury is one of the most common golf-related symptoms, representing up to 52% of all golf related complaints. During the golf swing the lower back is exposed to significant compression, shearing, torsion and side-to-side bending forces. It is interesting to know that the peak compressive loads experienced by the lower back during the golf swing have been shown to be 8-times bodyweight.

Although the human body may not be designed to handle the forces generated by swinging a golf club, there are measures that can be taken to prevent injury. Numerous studies have shown that golf specific exercise programmes can reduce the risk of developing lower back disorders. In addition, rehabilitation programmes have been shown to significantly improve the success rate of returning to golf participation following low back injury, as well as drastically decreasing the probability of developing recurrent injuries.

Lower back Injury prevention and conditioning programmes should focus on developing muscle endurance and control. This will provide stability for the lumbar region. However, although there are many different exercises for lower back stability, many of these can actually predispose one to injury. The reason for this is due to the high compressive and shear loads that the lumbar spine must withstand during some of these exercises. Although an injury prevention regime is important to any golfer wishing to avoid lower back problems, it is recommended that a knowledgeable trainer is consulted before any lower back conditioning programme is started.