From April 7 to 10, some of the world's greatest golfers took the green at Augusta National to compete in the Masters Tournament, except for one. Thanks to acute back pain, professional golfer and former green jacket champion Fred Couples had to sit out the tournament for the first time since 1994.
This isn't the first time the golfer has struggled with back pain. The Associated Press reported that back problems have inhibited him for the last two decades. Without Couples, only 89 players competed this year – the fewest since 2002.
Because of the type of movement required during the game, it's not at all uncommon for golfers to suffer from back pain. According to a 2014 study published in the Asian Journal of Sports Medicine, lower back pain accounts for around 25 percent of all golf injuries.
With that kind of frequency, how can golfers avoid injury on the green? Luckily, there are a few tips to help:
Warm-up before playing
As with any other physical activity, golfers should complete a comprehensive warm-up before teeing off. This includes stretching shoulder and torso muscles as well as taking some easy swings to prep your body for the upcoming 18 holes. If possible, Spine-Health.com recommends visiting a driving range before hitting the course.
Practice these swing techniques
Many golf injuries occur when players contort their bodies in certain positions during a swing. If completed in the wrong form, the torque and twist of a swing can either cause immediate pain or create problems over time. That's why it's important to practice proper form in slow, easy motions to accustom your body.
Sean Foley, a well-known golf instructor, told Golf Digest that players often straighten their right knee on the backswing, causing the bottom vertebrae to tilt left and endure too much stress. He said that golfers should work to maintain that bend in the right knee as they swing their clubs back and turn their left shoulders down to make sure the mid-back, not the lower back, is handling the twist.
For downswings, Foley recommended that players position themselves in a squat, as if they were going to leap off the ground. This form allows your swing to use sources of force other than your spine, such as your quadriceps and glutes, helping you avoid injury to your back.
If you're suffering from back pain after sustaining a golf injury, schedule an appointment with a professional chiropractor today.