Spine injuries lead the list of injuries on the amateur, senior and regular PGA tours. Repetitive extremes in rotation and compression during a normal back swing has caused now senior PGA tour members such as Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tom Kite and Fuzzy Zoeller to have been sidelined at one time or another with career-threatening back injuries. Today, players such as Tiger Woods have curtailed that traditional backbreaking motion in favor of lighter clubs and a more balanced, upright, back-friendly swing.
Past studies have shown that both professional and amateur golfers generate "peak spinal compression loads" of 6,000 newtons (gravitational force). That's the equivalent of eight times an individual's standing body weight. The two main trouble spots are the shock absorbing disks between the vertebrae and the facet joints, at the back of each vertebrae, that act as brakes to rotation. Each disk is a round ligament made up of annulus, a multi-layered collagen basket that absorbs rotational stress and compression. However, the annulus can tear easily and if the disk ruptures in the spinal canal it can injure the sciatic nerves that run down the legs. Patients would compare it to a grenade going off in their backs. Facet joints are more prone to arthritic changes and bone spurs that can narrow the spinal canal.
To prevent back injuries, I recommend "trunk stabilization"
The results of these exercises are more back-friendly and upright, golf swings that keep the hips and shoulders more level throughout the body’s rotation. As always, if your back pain seems to be worsening over time, consult with your physician.
Spinal specialist Dr. John Steinman is medical director of The Spine & Joint Institute at Redlands Community Hospital.