Brace your back, golf is now a contact sport
Back injuries to stars such as Tiger Woods blamed on training regimes that result in spinal ‘crunch’
Golfers now hit the ball so hard the strain on their backs is equivalent to playing American football, a study reveals. The game has effectively become a “contact sport”, experts have said after reviewing changes to the way modern players swing their clubs.
GOLFERS hit the ball so hard the strain on their backs is equivalent to playing American football, a new study reveals.
The game has effectively become a “contact sport”, experts have said after reviewing changes to the way modern players swing their clubs.
Published in the Journal of Neurolog y: Spine, the study found that in contrast to the “relaxed downswing and follow-through” of historical greats such as Jack Nicklaus, modern professionals aim for an explosive release of energy that creates a “crunch” effect on the spine.
This is equivalent to the compressive force of about eight times the average human body weight, or the impact of a blocking tackle in American football.
“Considering that the average [professional] golf player takes more than 300 swings per day, the long-term effects are not trivial, particularly for a sport that allows for decades of participation,” the authors wrote.
The paper follows the successful comeback from back injury of Tiger Woods at the Masters last April after years of debilitating spine pain.
The 14-time major championship winner personifies the modern-era player who focuses on strength training, particularly of the core, in order to get the club head moving at about 130mph, according to the experts at St Joseph’s Hospital in Arizona.
This is combined with new techniques encouraging players to rotate their trunk in relation to their hips so as to store up elastic potential energy, which is unleashed in the downswing.
“As a consequence of these factors, we believe that modern golfers, particularly elite players who follow intense strength-training regimens to let loose the enormous potential of tightly wound muscle fibres, are repeatedly traumatising their lumbar spine,” the study said.
It found that professional golfers were suffering from back problems increasingly younger. Back disorders afflict roughly 55 per cent of professionals and 35 per cent of amateurs.
Dr Corey Walker, who led the study, said: “We believe Tiger Woods’s experience with spinal disease highlights a real and under-recognized issue amongst modern era golfers. Repetitive traumatic discopathy (RTD) results from years of degenerative ‘hits’ or strains on the spine resulting in early onset breakdown, instability, and pain.
“We hope medical practitioners, and surgeons in particular, will be able to diagnose and treat golfers with RTD in a specialised fashion going forward.”
Other current top golfers who have been affected by back injuries include Jason Day, Hunter Mahan, Danny Willett, Dustin Johnson and Rory Mcilroy.
In the UK about 1.5 million adults play golf at least once a week.