“Back muscle endurance is especially important for golfers with lower back pain,” said Nathan Edwards, a graduate student in Ball State Biomechanics Lab. “Working with a fitness professional can help you increase your strength and lower your risk of further injuring your back.”
The Kokomo native spent the last year analyzing lower back pain for his study, “Quantifying Biomechanical Risk Factors for Low Back Pain in Amateur Golfers.” His research investigated the connection between the hips, lower back, and upper back for golfers experiencing lower back pain. The project was one of nine winners at Ball State’s Student Symposium this month.
Edwards notes there are several factors that can contribute to lower back pain in golfers, including: inadequate warm-ups before playing, limited hip flexibility, and compromising trunk movement during the swing.
His research found that club-head speed largely impacts a golfer’s success. To maximize club-head speed, golfers should use a swing form with proximal-to-distal sequencing pattern.
Edwards compared proximal-to-distal sequencing to the cracking of a bullwhip, with speed increasing and energy transferring through the length of the whip.
“In the golf swing, the golfer’s body starts accelerating at the legs,” Edwards said. “Then speed increases in this order: hips, lower back, upper back, and shoulders, followed by the arms, forearms, hands, and finally the club head as it impacts the golf ball. For golfers, the swing is the whip, and we want the ‘snap’ to occur in the club head at impact.”
Edwards said a proximal-to-distal sequencing pattern also helps golfers safely transfer speed through the body and into the club head. In the golf swing, forces up to eight times a golfer’s body weight are produced, helping to generate the highest club-head speed possible at impact.
These forces can adversely affect the portions of the body where a proximal-to-distal sequence is not followed, he said.
“I found that golfers with lower back pain did not use a proximal-to-distal sequencing pattern for their hips, lower back, and upper back,” Edwards noted. “Instead, they moved their hips and lower back at the same time followed by their upper back. The golfers with lower back pain also relied more on muscle strength rather than efficient golf swing technique (i.e. proximal-to-distal sequencing) to increase hip, lower back, and upper back rotational speed. Specifically, they used their back muscles more during the golf swing.”
The lack of motion and the increased back muscle activity may be factors in the development of pain by increasing the amount of force on the lower back. However, these characteristics could also be a way that golfers protect their lower backs by limiting the amount of movement near painful areas, he said.