Want to Avoid a Golf Injury?

Core strength is your best bet.


A powerful golf swing starts with the core. But so does a powerful golf injury.

“People don’t look at [golf] as something that’s very physically demanding,” Andrew Turpin, a physical therapist at the Missouri Orthopaedic Institute, says. But when Turpin works with Mizzou golfers, he focuses on an intense core routine. “Anything you do over and over repetitively is going to cause stress and strain on your body if your body isn’t set up properly.”

Although important on their own, the core muscles are even more integral in supporting a golfer’s spine. Discs between each vertebrae help the spine absorb compression forces or disperse them, Turpin says. A golf swing presents a complex problem for those discs.

“They’re not so great at resisting rotational forces,” Turpin says.

A proper golf swing maintains a stable spine that’s supported with those all-important core muscles. “You see a lot of times with people doing crunches and sit ups, they say ‘I’ve got to strengthen my core.’ Those are your big show-off beach muscles. That’s not what we’re talking about with core muscles,” Turpin says.


Physical Therapist Andrew Turpin works with Mizzou golfers.


Bridges and plank exercises require the trunk remains stable, and advanced positions emulate sport-specific movement patterns. That sought-after six-pack isn’t doing the work related to stability and rotational torque resistance. That credit belongs to smaller core muscles that attach directly to the spine. The lack of strength in these areas means a higher chance of the most common complaint on the links: lower back pain. According to a 2013 paper published in the journal Sports Health, lower back pain accounts for more than one-third of reported golf injuries.

For golfers beginning their season on the course, Turpin suggests evaluating the quality of pain should something happen during a round of play. Ice and rest often solve general soreness and aching. However, shooting pain or burning pain in the back or down into the legs can indicate something more.

“In the morning, the first few steps out of bed, how are they?,” Turpin asks. “Someone that has something like a disc injury, usually they’re going to feel an instant pain in the lower back. Straightening up is difficult. Lying down is difficult. Things like that would be immediate red flags.”

Turpin says the best way to avoid this type of injury, aside from adding a regular core strength routine, is not hunching over to swing that 6-iron. In other words, that favorite truism about good posture makes yet another appearance.


Photos: MU Health Care