Golfers with Pain are Weaker, Study Finds

Tiger Woods grimaced during a shot in September 2004 at a tournament in Ireland, while he suffered from low back pain. AP Photo/Peter Morrison

Low back pain makes life miserable for anyone who has it. For golfers, it can take the fun out of life.

Even Tiger Woods has dealt with it, though he can hardly be compared to the average duffer, since he managed a 4-under-par performance last year during a round in Ireland through which he grimaced on many shots.

A new study points the way toward specific exercises that might help golfers with the condition.

Scientists recruited 16 male golfers with low back pain (LBP) and 16 who were pain-free. All were of similar age and handicap (that's a scorekeeping term, of course, not an assessment of their physical condition).

The scientists analyzed the kinematics of the golfers' swings, figuring out the load placed on the spine, plus the strength and flexibility of each person's hips and trunk. They scrutinized posture.

Those with LBP were weaker in their trunks and hips and less flexible in their hamstrings and torsos.

"We found deficits in physical characteristics in the golfers with a history of LBP compared to the non-LBP group," reported Yung-Shen Tsai, the study's leader. "These differences may hinder dissipation of the tremendous spinal forces and movements generated by the golf swing over time and limit trunk rotation during the backswing. These conditions may lead to lower back muscle strain, ligament sprain or disc degeneration."

Tsai cautioned that the differences can't be said conclusively to cause or result from low-back injuries in golfers, but the results of the study might be useful to those who design exercise programs to prevent or rehabilitate the injuries.

Seems like there is plenty of need.

"More than 30 percent of golfers have experienced issues related to low-back pain or injury that have affected their ability to continue enjoying the game of golf," Tsai said.

The findings are being presented today at the annual meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine.

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