Protect your hips to save your golf game

Everyone agrees that the real power of the golf swing is not in your arms but in the club head speed as it impacts the ball.

While there are many factors that contribute to club head speed, the potential energy created by the torque of trunk and hip rotation during the backswing generates club head speed throughout the downswing. Power is really a combination of trunk and hip rotation through ball contact.

Golfers with lower back and hip problems frequently lose distance and have pain that can limit their ability to generate that drive through the downswing. As we get older, we lose flexibility and tend to shorten the backswing and decrease trunk rotation. One of the amazing aspects of Tiger Wood’s return from multiple back procedures is his ability to generate high club head speed.

Hip problems don’t have to sideline you

For people with arthritis and even those who have had total hip replacement, golf is still a great way to exercise. And you can still play a solid game as shown by a number of professionals who have had a hip replacement – Jack Nicklaus, Hal Sutton and Davis Love III among others.

While pain is often a limiting factor, the key is maintaining the flexibility of the lumbar spine and the rotational motion of the hips. For some, the worsening pain of hip arthritis can prevent them from playing.

With successful hip replacement, however, many can return to play without pain and still generate good rotation in both backswing and downswing just a few months after surgery.

Both of these can be improved with a series of stretching exercises and warm up drills. A consistent program of exercises directed at strengthening the lumbar muscles and muscles around the hips is the best way to avoid problems.

Staying healthy for easier play

The hip joints are some of the largest joints in the body. It is a ‘ball and socket’ that is operated by large, powerful muscles. Some important things to remember:

  • Keep these muscles healthy and strong. Muscle imbalance in the hips can inhibit function and joint damage. Keeping these large muscles healthy can improve bone density, which can help keep you on the course as you age.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Carrying around extra weight strains and stresses all joints, as well as your cardiovascular system.
  • Maintain good nutrition. Eat a variety of non-processed foods and consider a quality supplement to give your body the building blocks for healthy joints.

Warming up is key

A good warm up of at least 15-20 minutes before play is also important. While formal physical therapy can help instruct proper mechanics of doing these exercises, most simple stretching exercises are available online, through a doctor’s office or even your local golf club pro.

I particularly like to recommend swimming to my patients with back, hip and knee problems because the forces across those joints are reduced in the water and they can combine aerobic exercise with strengthening.

By practicing these healthy tips, you can not only stay on the course longer but also hit the farther with increased accuracy.

About Author: Peter Mulhern, M.D.

Dr. Peter Mulhern is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with the OSF HealthCare Medical Group in Galesburg, Illinois. He received his medical training at Boston University and his surgical residency at Georgetown University Hospital.

Dr. Mulhern and his wife, Cheryl, have a 13-year-old daughter who keeps them busy with her activities. He also has three grown children and one grandson, scattered from Los Angeles to San Francisco and Boston.

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Categories: Bone & Joint