Modified Golf Swing May Reduce Back Injury?

It has been studied that of the 25 million golfers in America, up to 62% may suffer an injury related to the game. Low back pain is the most common injury in professional and amateur golfers and may be due to repetitive swing motion and poor mechanics. Many golfers believe that the more their shoulders rotate back during the backswing phase of a golf swing, the better their swing will be. This position places the spine under a great degree of stress, however. The above mentioned study illustrated the use of a more restricted backswing, incorporating a higher degree of shoulder activity not only reduced the odds of injury by eliminating excessive spinal rotation, but also did not harm performance levels!

Seven subjects were fitted with EMG electrodes recording muscle activity of the lumbar muscles, external oblique, latissimus dorsi and right pectoralis major muscles as they demonstrated their typical full recoil backswing (should rotating back at least 90 degrees with restricted hip rotation). Additionally, club head speed and accuracy was measured for performance. Later, the golfers had modified their swings to reduce the shoulder rotation and torque of the spine.

Results revealed that a backswing an average of 47 degrees less did not significantly affect club speed, stroke accuracy nor targeting of the club head. Significant changes were found in muscular activity though: 19% reduction in strain of the right oblique before impact, 12% reduction of the left lumbar during acceleration, 21% reduction of the right latissimus during activation, and 14% reduction of the left lumbar during follow-through. So not to worry, changing swing mechanics to reduce risks of injury will not compromise your chance to experience your best game yet!

Bulbalian R, Ball KA, Seaman DR, The short golf backswing, Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 2001:24(9), pp. 560-575