Exam Room – Stray Away From the Sway
As a practicing Chiropractor in the DFW Metroplex that has traveled with PGA Tour players for the last 15 years I have treated and successfully helped thousands of golfers of all ages and levels with back pain. A majority of golfers struggle with back pain at least once during their playing tenure. Coincidentally, a majority of amateur golfers also struggle with a slice. There are too many visits to doctors’ offices for golf related injuries. Back pain was the most common reason. The position the golfer puts their spine in when hitting a slice is a major technique fault that can create low back pain. When assessing an injured golfer, I focus on three parameters in this order:
1. Physical dysfunctions, specifically hips, T-spine and shoulders (golfers Triad).
There are many causes of back pain of which I don’t want to bore you with. However, I am going discuss one the most common body-swing dysfunctions, which falls into both the Physical/Technique category. The Sway!
Sway • is described as any lateral movement of the lower body away from the target during the backswing. This forces the weight to the outside of back foot, resulting in improper weight distribution during transition.
Causes • In order to turn into your right hip (for right hand golfers), there are several body parts that must move properly. The most important is right hip internal rotation, if the body is not able to turn around the right hip due to joint or muscle restrictions, then sway will occur. Secondly, left hip external rotation, thirdly the ability to separate your upper body from your lower body allows you to make a good shoulder turn. Limited thoracic rotation is the main cause of this physical restriction. Finally, the ability to laterally stabilize your right leg during the backswing is directly proportional to the strength and stability of your glute muscles. This muscle helps prevent the right hip from elevating and shifting laterally during the backswing.
A majority of golfers struggle with the sway, however most do not know that the sway is the beginning phase of the dreaded Slice. In trying to correct the slice, most will try to influence the grip and address posture, which is important. What is forgotten is fixing the body dysfunctions that can create this Sway.
You’re probably asking by now, “how does the Sway create the Slice and be a causative factor in causing low back pain?”.
If you sway, there is no stable foundation to drive your weight off the right foot during the transition into your downswing. Meaning that the golfer will lose power, and a breakdown of the kinetic sequence will occur. As the golfer sways, his head and upper body will tilt towards the target creating a reverse spine angle. This will put a tremendous amount of undue stress on the left side of the spine. The golfer will initiate the downswing with his arms creating an over–the-top move, causing an outside to inside swing path. This will put a clockwise spin on the ball and a slice will occur.
At impact and follow through, another reverse spine angle occurs creating a “Crunch Factor” causing right low back pain.
As is evident from above, there is a direct correlation between the slice and low back pain. So, the question is, how do I correct the slice and prevent back pain?
Most commonly it is a technique fault caused by body dysfunction, which are limitations and weaknesses in the body that have been described above. The top three target areas to address are:
1. Thoracic Mobility • This exercise is called “Reach backs”. This is a great warm exercise to help improve thoracic mobility. This will help the shoulder turn into the backswing and be able to initiate the downswing with the hips instead of arms/hands.
2. Hip Stability • These X-walks will improve hip stability in the frontal plane to help prevent the hips from moving away from target during the backswing.
3. Hip Mobility • This stretch will help the golfer improve hip flexibility, which will aid in hip rotation and not lateral sway.
I am still shocked by the amount of time and money golfers spend on gimmicky training aids, clubs, balls etc. to fix the slice. Your body is the most important piece of equipment you have. Think of it as a your 15th club in the bag.
With all the new technology, the average score in America has not changed in 20 years.
I understand we live in a society where we all want a quick fix, however the old saying “Rome was not built in a day” holds true in the golf world.
As we have all witnessed, some of the best golfers in the world have worked to change their swing and have taken up to 2 years to see the results. We should not think any different. What is not seen is the dedicated training done behind the scenes, where the golfers work diligently on their bodies through treatment and training that will allow their bodies to get into positions that is needed for the swing change.