Sunday, May 16, 2010

Golf Muscles

Golf Muscles – Where does the problem lie (pun intended)

(Copyright Kinetic Health 2010)
My area of specialization is the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions and biomechanical analysis - not how to swing a golf club. Any recommendations about the actual techniques involved in a golf swing - I leave to the Golf Pros. On the other hand, through our process of visual analysis, exercise, and myofascial therapy, I have helped numerous PGA, nationwide tour, and amateur players achieve excellence in their games.

Instead of technique, I focus upon the identification of soft-tissue and joint restrictions, and the resolution of the neuromuscular problems caused by those restrictions – with an aim towards improving the player’s ability to perform the required actions.

An efficient golf swing is a great example of power generation. The twisting motion of your body during the golf swing produces an amazing amount of torque and rotational force. Ideally, we should first see motion from the golfer’s hips, generating the power which is transferred through the torso, into the arms, and finally down the club, and into the club head (Kinematic Sequence). A smooth efficient golf swing, that transfers high levels of kinetic energy, is truly amazing to watch.

Unfortunately, an inefficient golf swing still produces high levels of kinetic energy. However, instead of the energy being transferred into the golf ball, the kinetic energy is re-directed back into the soft tissues of your body. This results in micro-tears, which creates an inflammatory response, the formation of scar tissues, and a resultant alteration in motion patterns. Alteration in motion pattern means increased injury and often a substantial decrease in performance.

Biomechanical Analysis

A typical golf swing can be divided into several biomechanical phases: Address Position, Takeaway, Forward Swing, Acceleration, Follow-Through and Late Follow-Through. Each phase of the golf swing is performed by a unique combination of anatomical structures - a kinetic chain.

  • Certain muscles act as primary movers to perform the action
  • Other muscles act as antagonists to counter-balance movements.
  • Others are used as a base of stability.
If we have a good understanding of which muscles perform which actions, and how they affect motion, then we can prevent injuries and improve performance. Abnormal postural and motion patterns can easily be determined through video analysis by a clinician. This is what we often do to determine which structures are causing abnormal motion patterns.

There are also two other important areas of biomechanical analysis that can provide key information:

  • Kinematic sequencing of a golf swing shows how power is transferred from the hips and torso, through the arms, and finally directed into the club head.
  • Electromyographic (EMG) analysis is used to determine which muscles are active through each phase of a golf swing. In Electromyography, electrodes are placed on the skin, and an instrument is used to measure the activity of the monitored muscles throughout the swing. This valuable information shows clinicians exactly which muscles are most active during each phase of the swing.
Golf labs such as Titleist Performance Institute do a remarkable job of capturing your kinematic sequence. It is worth finding a specialist in your area who can determine this sequence. The EMG analysis is often performed in research environments. This EMG information provides clinicians (Chiropractors, physiotherapists, massage therapists) key information about just what structures they should be addressing during their treatment protocols.

In Part Two of this blog, I will go over the phases of a golf swing, some of the anatomical structures involved, common postural distortions, and how they affect motion patterns.

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