Women golfers are just as likely as men to experience golf-related injuries – that rate is between 60% and 80% during the time you play the sport. The second most common injury directly related to playing golf is lower back strain exceeded only by injuries to the wrist (professional golfers) or elbow (amateur golfers) as reported by Larry Foster, M.D. in his book, Dr. Divot’s Guide to Golf Injuries. Many others believe that lower back injuries are the most common golf injury.
Chicago Sports Medicine states that by “midlife more than 50 percent of the population has had significant episodes of low back pain.” Further, they state that “golf is a sport that puts significant stress on the lower back.”
How it Occurs
A low back muscle strain occurs when the muscle fibers are abnormally stretched or torn. The spine is supported by large muscles called the paraspinal muscles. These muscles both support the spinal column as well as the weight of the upper body. The five lumbar vertebrae are connected by tough ligaments that help to maintain the position of the spinal column. These muscles, ligaments, and bones all work together to provide control and strength for nearly all activities.
There are three typical low back injuries related to your golf swing according to Spine Health for Golf:
Muscle strains: typically occur with rough or forceful golf swings or a sudden shift during the downswing.
Muscle and tendon attachment: generally occur because of excessive use, accidents or swing abnormalities while playing golf.
Disc injuries: can occur from swinging abnormalities.
Fitness Goals to Avoid Injury
Notice in the instruction to the right on proper swing technique from Steve Fontaine’s page, the stretch and torque placed on the back during a typical golf swing. Imagine how much stress this movement places on back muscles and tendons, especially if those muscles have not been properly conditioned and warmed up.
Prevention is the best strategy for women golfers in terms of lower back muscle sprains. Your fitness goal is to improve flexibility and strength. Your basic exercise program should include stretching the back muscles and rotating them from side to side. Strengthening will occur with sit-ups repetitions and weight training. Next, and equally important, is practicing the correct golf swing. Rotating the shoulder and hip to the same degree during the backswing and keeping the spine straight and vertical during the follow-through can help to reduce the strain on the lumbar spine. Do not force extra movement during a backswing or follow through.
Sean Cochran’s site provides insight into proper conditioning and swing to prevent golf related injuries. He recommends implementing a golf specific strength and conditioning program that develops correct and efficient swing mechanics, which will place less stress on the lower back. Cochran reminds us that, “not all lower back injuries can be prevented, but with the implementation of a lower back flexibility and strengthening program, the possibility of one occurring to you can be greatly reduced.”
Mike Pedersen has developed a specialized program specifically for women golfers which will also add yards to your tee shots, improve your swing consistency and much more. Most importantly, you’ll be in good condition to hit the ball and do it properly to avoid any injury.
If you experience a golf-related injury to your back, you should rest for a day or two. You can alternate applying heat and cold to the affected area. (Cold produces constriction of the blood vessels thereby reducing inflammation, muscle spasm, and pain. Heat therapy brings blood into the target tissues to provide oxygen and nutrients and removes cell wastes. You can also take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen. If your pain has not improved in a few days, you should consult with your physician.