Spine-Tuning Your Swing: Conquer injury on the course

Phil Disley

Who says golfers aren't athletes? Both age and the swing take a toll. PGA Tour physical therapist Jeff Hendra offers the five most common injuries he sees working with the world's best players, while Top 100 Teacher Jon Tattersall helps you adjust mid-round when your body goes snap, crackle, pop.

\nBACK IN SHAPE
Where it hurts: Acute pain in the lower back and/or hip, caused by your lumbar spine.
How it hurts your swing: Your hips lag behind and you struggle with weight shift, causing inconsistent contact.
To feel better: Squat down and hug your knees for five seconds, Hendra says. This stretches your hamstrings and back and relieves some of the strain.
To swing better: "Beware of the 'X-Factor'-type swing, where you don't turn your torso as much," Tattersall says. "Turn everything a little more — hips, knees, even your ankles, like players did back in the 1950s."

\nTHE SPRAIN EVENT
Where it hurts: Ankles, knees, hips, caused by the repetitive motion of rolling your ankles and firing through with your lower body.
How it hurts your swing: Lack of lateral movement can cause an early clubhead release, leading to duck hooks.
To feel better: Balance on each leg for 30 seconds with your eyes shut. Says Hendra, "Without your vision field, your ankle and knee work much harder to balance you. More muscles fire."
To swing better: "Without the lateral movement of the lower body, you need a more rotary, upper-body swing," Tattersall says. "At address, put about 60 percent of your weight on your lead leg and keep it there through impact."

\nHEAD CASE
Where it hurts: Piercing headaches caused either by your cervical spine (your neck) or a hangover.
How it hurts your swing: You're forced to bend your head to the side, promoting a reverse pivot.
To feel better: If your pain is unrelated to booze, stretch with slow side bends of your head: ear to shoulder and nose to shoulder. Hungover? "You need liquids," Hendra says. "Drink as much water as possible."
To swing better: Tattersall: "Set up with a little more weight than normal on your right foot [for righthanders]. This will let you turn away from the ball without dipping toward the target. And let your head move. Don't try to keep it rock steady."

\nSOCKET TO ME
Where it hurts: Sharp pain in your shoulder, near the socket.
How it hurts your swing: You can't make a full turn; you fly your elbow and cock your wrists too soon.
To feel better: Bring the arm over your head and place your palm on your back under your neck. Pull back on the raised elbow with your other hand.
To swing better: To reduce the shoulders' workload, Tattersall says, "Feel your upper arms against your rib cage during your backswing. Think about the glove-under-your-armpit drill."

\nJOINT VENTURE
Where it hurts: Inflamed outside of your elbow, which stings when your club hits the ground or heavy rough.
How it hurts your swing: You're tentative at impact, sapping your power.
To feel better: Hang your aching arm straight at your side, then bend it to a 90-degree angle. Flex your wrist so that your fingertips point to the ground, then slowly straighten your arm until it's parallel with the ground. Repeat as needed.
To swing better: "Keep your arms quiet through impact. Instead, focus on an aggressive body turn through contact, with your arms along for the ride."

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