Common Golfing Ailments
Are you watching, like us, to see who will wear the coveted green jacket at this year’s Master’s Golf Tournament, Round 1 teeing off tomorrow? Now in it’s 79th year, the Master’s at Augusta is one of the most prestigious tournaments on the golfing calendar. This year, we’re keen to see if Phil Mickelson can come back to form having not won a tournament at all last year, partly due to a niggling back injury. Tiger Woods is also making a return, only two months after retiring.
Again, Woods has been plagued by injuries – from surgery to repair his ACL in 2008, a bulging neck disk in 2010, a left Achilles tendon injury in 2011 which combined with an MCL injury to his left knee forced him to pull out of the Player’s Championship that year. Most recently in 2014/15 he has suffered from his ‘glutes not engaging’ and resultant chronic lower back pain.
Sports Podiatry & Golf
Whether you are a professional golfer whose living depends upon playing or coaching, or playing in your spare time and working on your handicap, your biomechanics are critical to your game. In late 2014, Woods even hired a graduate student of biomechanics, Chris Como, to help him work on his swing.
As Podiatrists, our expertise is in the biomechanics of the lower limb and its anatomy, physiology and function. At Dubai Podiatry Centre, we are keenly interested in your gait, posture and function not just when you walk or run, but when you participate in different sports. With the UAE hosting prestigious international golf tournaments and home to world-class facilities such as the Montgomerie or Els Club for us amateurs, we see many golfers in our clinic suffering from a range of both golfing related injuries and also looking to correct an underlying biomechanical anomaly that is impacting their golf game.
Lower Limb Biomechanics of a Golf Swing
Let’s take a look at the way your lower limb and back function during a golf swing. We can then look at the most common injuries and conditions affecting golfers and what we can do to rectify these (improving your enjoyment of the game and maybe even your handicap in the process!)
As golf isn’t a contact sport, we see different types of injury than we do in our rugby players for example. Golf-related injuries tend to be from overuse, rather than trauma. These injuries range from blisters on the feet, to Achilles tendonitis, lower back pain and Morton’s Neuromas. Even carrying your golf bag (which can weigh up to 25kgs fully loaded) may lead to back, shoulder, neck and ankle pain.
Your average 18 holes will involve 3-4 hours on your feet, walking about 5 miles. Any foot/ankle joint biomechanical anomaly such as over-pronation, supination or plantar fasciitis will lead to resultant aches and pains including arch pain, forefoot pain or shin pain.
During a golf swing, a portion of the swing is powered by the lower limb – greater club head speed is driven by optimum weight transfer from your back to your front leg during the downward swing (right to left leg if you’re right handed).
Weight Transfer During Swing
During the back swing weight transfers to the back foot and leg, and then onto the front leg during the down/forward swing. In order to achieve maximum club head speed at the point of impact with the ball, we are looking for optimum ground reaction force – the force up through the ground into the weight bearing foot and leg. In summary, to achieve a great swing, we are looking for a fast weight transfer from back to front leg combined with maximum ground reaction force.
The other movement and force we need to consider in golfers is torque – or twist. The front foot and ankle generally twist twice as much as the back foot.
This is a very brief summary of some of the force and movements through your feet, ankles, legs and hips when golfing, in addition to the walk. From a sports podiatry viewpoint, this has implications for your footwear and your orthotics (if advised) within your footwear.
Custom Golfing Orthotics
As we know, your left and right foot are subject to different forces and movements at different times during a golf game. Hence, wearing identical over-the-counter left/right insoles will do little to correct an underlying biomechanical issue, let alone take into account the specific demands of your sport.
By addressing any biomechanical anomaly, the risk of an overuse injury is greatly reduced. Secondly, your performance may well improve, due to improved lower limb efficiency and less fatigue. Following a study in 2001*, it was found that after 6 weeks usage of custom corrective orthotics in golfers led to a 7% increase in club head speed (which translates to a significant extra 15 yards per shot). Other benefits included improved stride length, pelvic rotation, components and symmetry of gait.
Dubai Podiatry Centre & Golfing Patients
At Dubai Podiatry Centre, we assess your gait and lower limb and aim to work with you to achieve your golfing goals. Our corrective orthotics alleviate biomechanical anomalies such as supination and over-pronation to achieve the correct, neutral alignment, alleviating any patellar twist and ankle, hip and foot pain in the process.
We prescribe and manufacture from absolute scratch our own custom corrective innovative orthotics in our in-house laboratory using the most advanced medical grade materials. Taking into account the different demands on each foot during golf, we also build these demands into each left and right orthotic. Our custom golfing orthotics also provide support for the lateral shift of weight, and increased forefoot stability during the follow-through phase.
We can be contacted for a convenient lower limb assessment and advice on optimizing your leg, ankle and foot posture.
*Drs David Stude & Jeff Gullickson, 2001, Journal of Manipulative & Physiological Therapeutics
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