Sharpen your golf swing, protect your back
Summer is here and another long weekend is upon us. Many Canadians will be sunning themselves at the beach, some heading to the cottage, and others will be kicking back at home enjoying beers, barbecues and fireworks.
The Canada Day long weekend is highly anticipated for golfers, who head to the links in droves. But before getting to the teeing ground, golfers should be aware of the importance of improving their technique and form to avoid injury and protect their backs when swinging for that coveted hole in one.
Like any sport, golf requires warming up with a set of stretches.
Dr. Melanie Locke of the Canadian Chiropractic Association (CCA) stresses that the key to avoiding back pain when golfing all comes down to physical fitness.
"Proper posture, strength, flexibility and endurance all play a part with effective warm-ups, stretching and core-strengthening work," says Locke. "Cardiovascular fitness is important when golfing because to walk 18 holes, it's about 7 kilometres plus the weight of the clubs -- it requires endurance to prevent fatigue."
Every year chiropractors across Canada treat countless golfers for injuries they sustain on the course, and low back pain is the most common injury incurred while playing golf, according to the CCA.
Other common injuries include shoulder and neck pain, muscle strain and tendonitis. Not only do these injuries hinder players from performing their best on the golf course, but it can also limit their mobility and quality of life.
Locke says some injuries can become chronic if not properly treated, so if a pain lasts more than two or three days it should be examined. She says most golf-related injuries can be prevented with proper warm-ups beforehand.
"Stretching is important to avoiding injuries because it increases flexibility and improves joint motion. It also helps relax muscles after a workout," she says. "It is recommended to hold each stretch for 30 seconds, no bouncing, do both sides, and do not stretch to the point of pain; stretching should be comfortable."
Remember to warm up and cool down. Drink lots of water to keep hydrated -- being even a touch dehydrated can affect athletic performance. Wear the right shoes. All of our weight is carried on our feet, so a properly fitted shoe with good support can help prevent knee, hip and low back pain. Push, don't carry, a golf bag.
"This helps to take a load off. People who pull their clubs or carry them with one bag strap can lead to muscle strain," says Locke. "The spine is more balanced if we push clubs in front, or if we do carry clubs, wear a double-strapped golf bag to help keep the spine balanced and prevent muscle strain."
Ensure clubs are the right height, made of appropriate material to arm strength, and that they have a comfortable grip. Having the wrong club that has not been customized to the proper height may lead to improper or suboptimal swinging technique, which could result in an injury.
Golfing is about having fun, and for some people it helps relieve stress. Don't add to your body's stress by improper warmup and technique -- make sure you're ready and in tip-top shape from head to toe.
For more information visit Chiropracticcanada.ca.
Stretch it out
The main areas to stretch when trying to avoid golfing injuries are your legs, back, arms and neck. Here are some stretches recommended by the Canadian Chiropractic Association.
The side bending stretch
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, hold the golf club above your head with your arms straight and slowly bend to one side without rotating until you feel a stretch in the side of your back. Hold for at least 15 seconds and repeat twice for each side.
Hold the shaft of the golf club vertically behind your back, gently pull the club up with your top hand until you feel a slight stretch in the shoulder of your lower arm. Hold for at least 15 seconds. Gently pull the club down with your bottom hand until you feel a stretch in the top shoulder and arm. Hold for at least 15 seconds, reverse hand positions and repeat.
Hamstring stretch (avoid this if you have back problems)
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, reach your hands to the sky. Then, bending at the waist, reach toward your toes.
With your arm straight out in front and palm facing upward, gently pull your fingers back with your other hand. Do not let your shoulder rise up. Next, with your arm straight out in front and your palm facing down, point your hand to the ground, gently pull the back of this hand toward you with your other hand. Hold each position for at least 15 seconds and repeat with other arm.