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Breaking down golf injuries so you don't break down

By Sean M. Cochran,
Contributor

Injuries are a part of every sport, and golf is no different. The questions to ask when it comes to injuries in golf are the following: What are the common parts of the body that become injured? What are the common reasons why injuries occur? And finally, what can you do to prevent injuries in the sport of golf?

Before we discuss the questions listed above let us discuss what transpires when you have an injury in relation to your golf swing. An injury such as a pulled muscle, strained tendon, or something as minimal a hangnail can affect your swing. How, you ask? Your body is a finely tuned machine. This remarkable piece of equipment is also a great mechanism of compensation.

Let me give you an example, if you tell your body to do something. Your brain tells your body to do this, this, and this to get this outcome. In order for your body to do this activity, it must contract certain muscles, and move the skeleton in such a way to perform the given activity.

Now let's say for example you have a sore knee and need to walk to your car. Just because your knee is sore does that mean you can't walk to the car? The answer is obviously, "no." But, although the answer is "no," your body can't do exactly what it would like to because your sore knee.

Regardless of the soreness, your brain is telling your body to walk, and it will do it. But it will do so by compensating your normal gait pattern. It will get you to walk from your house to the car. In extreme cases of an injury this will not occur, but generally speaking the body will get the task done.

Now the example above can easily be transferred onto the golf swing. If you have a little "pull" of a muscle a compensation pattern occurs in the body. This small compensation by your body has an affect on your golf swing. It might so minimal that you don't even feel it, but your shots and scores show it.

So what are you to do? Well, the obvious answer is to do everything to prevent an injury from occurring. We will discuss this point later. For now, let's move onto answering the questions above.

Fifty percent

First off realize that the majority of research I have read indicates that more than 50 percent of recreational golfers will incur a golf-related injury during their playing career. Keep that idea in mind as we move to other statistics.

Golf Related Injuries Common injuries include lower back problems, wrist and shoulder - a list I imagine most of you could probably have predicted. But now you know for sure what parts of the body become injured from the sport of golf.

So from the 50 percent statistic and what parts of the body become injured, we can almost guarantee that one of every two people reading this article, at some point in their golfing career, will either injure their low back, shoulder or wrist.

So on to the next question: How do these injuries to your low back, wrist or shoulder occur? The answer is two-fold. There are two different types of injuries when it comes to golf or any other sport. Injuries are classified as either acute or chronic.

An acute injury is the direct result of an external force at a specific point in time. Let me explain: If you were walking down the street and fell and broke your ankle, that type of injury is an acute injury. The majority of golf injuries do not fall into the acute injury category.

An occasional wrist injury can be an acute injury if you hit, say, a tree root in the downswing. Or maybe trip while walking on the course and sprain your ankle. These are acute type golf injuries. They are few and far between when discussing golf injuries in general.

The second type of injury category is what we call chronic injuries. Chronic injuries occur over time and are the most common type of injury in golf.

Probably the easiest way to explain it is the following: Over time, the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the body become tired. Once they become tired, fatigue sets in, and when your brain tells the body to swing that club and its tired.

What do you think is going to happen? Over time those muscles will get to a point of such fatigue that on one swing or in one round. The body gives up and something gets pulled, strained, or inflamed. At that point you now have a chronic golf injury. It's pretty simple when you think of the whole process of a golf swing.

A golf swing is a repetitive movement that places stresses on the same muscles over and over again. As a result those muscles get tired. And you now know what eventually happens to those muscles when they get tired, they break down and become injured.

Golf strength

So the next question is how can you prevent chronic injuries in golf to occur. The key is to develop what I term "golf strength."

Golf strength is developing the body in a manner that creates a foundation to support your swing. And when we talk about foundation, we're talking about the areas of: flexibility, balance, strength, endurance, and power in a manner that it assists you in maintaining the correct swing mechanics swing to swing.

The development of golf strength will limit (not erase) the possibility of injury and enhance your golf swing. Again, if your body can't support the movement you are trying to ask it to do. The brain will still make your body do it, but eventually the body will "put on the brakes" and come up injured.

Sean M. Cochran is one of the most recognized golf fitness instructors in the world. He travels the PGA Tour regularly with 2004 Masters Champion and 2005 PGA Champion Phil Mickelson. He has made many of his golf tips, golf instruction and golf swing improvement techniques available to amateur golfers at his Web site, BioForceGolf.com.

 
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