Professional and Weekend Golfers Improve Their Game and Avoid Injury with "Par Without Pain" Program
Certified Athletic Trainers at Golf Fitness Laboratory Provide Tips on How to Tee Off in Tip-Top Shape
DALLAS, March 3 – Many people don’t realize that swinging a golf club is a complex, demanding movement that can cause chronic injuries to professionals and amateurs alike. The most common injuries suffered are those to the lower back, shoulders, hips, wrists and hands, which are often the result of overuse, poor conditioning and improper swing mechanics. Certified athletic trainers are at the forefront among health care professionals in helping golfers improve their performance and avoid such injuries. Represented by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), they specialize in the prevention, assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and illnesses. Throughout March, NATA’s 30,000 members are celebrating National Athletic Training Month with the theme, “Be Active – Stay Healthy,” which is appropriate for the soaring number of intergenerational golf enthusiasts. Athletic trainers are among the key staff members of the Golf Fitness Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) which offers players of all abilities the possibility of improved physical conditioning and performance through applied research conducted at the university’s Neuromuscular Research Laboratory. PGA legend Greg Norman was instrumental during the inception of the lab, which opened at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex in 2004. A second location opened a year later at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina where LPGA professional Donna Andrews is on-staff, helping to promote health and wellness in children and women, as well as developing women-specific golf programs designed to prevent injury. “Our Total Golf Fitness Program is based on our ‘Par Without Pain’ assessment and conditioning program,” said Scott M. Lephart, PhD, ATC, director of both the UPMC Golf Fitness Laboratory and Neuromuscular Research Laboratory. “This customized program, which was the first of its kind anywhere, can identify biomechanical and neuromuscular deficiencies as well as optimal mechanisms to help prevent injury while maximizing performance.” The basis for the program was three years of laboratory testing of more than 500 golfers, including PGA touring professionals, and analysis of 6,000 swings to determine the relationship of physical characteristics, swing mechanics, injury patterns and golf proficiency. “Our program’s overall goal is to optimize a golfer’s fitness by improving his or her stability and mobility,” said Joseph B. Myers, PhD, ATC, associate director of the UPMC Golf Fitness Laboratory and Neuromuscular Research Laboratory. “We've incorporated exercises that are designed to improve balance, flexibility, strength and power. The testing of professional players and amateur enthusiasts with a range of handicaps revealed a number of key differences that are reflected in the program.” Certified athletic trainers Lephart and Myers believe the following exercise tips will benefit golfers at all levels:
- The Bridge -- stretches hamstrings, calf muscles and Achilles tendon. Kneel with your hands directly below your shoulders with both arms extended. Your toes should point down. Straighten both knees to raise your rear up toward the ceiling. Rock your heels backward to the floor as best you can. Hold this position for 30 seconds, keeping your heels as close to the floor as possible.
- Hip Flexor Stretch -- stretches hip flexor muscles. Kneel on your right knee and extend your left leg out in front of you at a 90-degree angle. Keeping your back straight, push your hips forward until you feel a good stretch in the front of your right leg. Hold for 30 seconds, squeezing your right glute muscle for a deeper stretch in the hip. Repeat on the other side.
- Seated Rotational Stretch -- increases shoulder turn and torso flexibility while providing resistance from hips. From a seated position on the floor, cross your right leg over your left. Rotate your torso to the right and place your left elbow over the outside of your right knee. Using your left elbow as a lever, push against your right leg to stretch your torso as far as your range of motion will allow. Hold the end position for 30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side.
- Seated Club Stretch -- maximizes coil in the backswing. Sit on the edge of a chair or an exercise ball, securing a club behind your back with both arms. Slowly rotate to your right side until your left arm is directly in front of you, and hold the position for 30 seconds. Place your left hand on either thigh--depending on your flexibility--to assist in rotating your shoulders farther behind you. Rotate back to center and repeat with your left side.
- Wood Chop -- encourages the correct sequence of motion in the downswing. Secure some resistance tubing or a stretchable band by looping one end around a sturdy object or sticking it in a doorjamb. Stand as if you were at the top of your swing and grasp the end of the tubing with both hands. Pull the tube down diagonally toward the floor as you rotate your torso to your golf impact position. Pose there for two to three seconds then slowly return the tube to the top. Do 10 reps and then switch sides. When you start to feel less resistance, move farther away from the door to add tension to the tube.
Nathan Smith, winner of the 2003 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, currently participates in the program. In 2004, Smith injured his shoulder while golfing. “The athletic trainers provided me with a workout regimen that not only improved the strength and flexibility in my shoulder, but in other areas in my body as well,” he said. Dee Hironimus, a technical business analyst and recreational golfer, decided to participate in the program largely because of the lower back pain she has suffered from years of wear and tear. “The immediate results that I saw after I first adjusted my swing were that my ball now has the potential to go straighter and farther than before,” she said. According to Myers, “Many individuals spend lots of money to improve their golf swing by purchasing new equipment and swing training devices, and taking lessons. Yet, if the golfers don’t have the physicality necessary to use the new equipment or perform the swing changes from the lessons or training equipment, improvement will be difficult. By upgrading one’s level of physical fitness, performance will improve, injuries will be fewer and enjoyment of the game will increase.” About NATA Certified athletic trainers are unique health care providers who specialize in the prevention, assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and illnesses. The National Athletic Trainers' Association represents and supports the 30,000 members of the athletic training profession through education and research. www.nata.org. NATA, 2952 Stemmons Freeway, Ste. 200, Dallas, TX 75247, 214.637.6282; 214.637.2206 (fax). About Lephart and Myers Lephart is associate professor and chair of the Department of Sports Medicine and Nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at the university’s School of Medicine. Myers is assistant professor of sports medicine and nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at the School of Medicine. Golfers improve their game and avoid injury