Danny Willett and Back Injury – What are his Options?

Danny Willett and Back Injury – What are his Options?

Danny Willett is a fine British golfer and winner of the 2016 Masters’ championship. He is not yet 30 years old, and was most recently in the news because, according to a

Daily Mail (UK) article of 25 July 2017: “The L5 (disc) and the sacrum were out from the x-ray which is why it hurts when I rotate on it. I was on Voltarol all week and wasn’t doing much practice. Asked if surgery could be the answer, Willett added: ‘I don’t know. I’d do anything that helped. I don’t think it does need surgery, it’s more just getting it in line and the only thing that irritates it massively is swinging poorly.’

What should Willett do next? Take a break to let himself heal, right in the middle of the golf season? Rely on temporary healing of an injury which may recur immediately the injury causing mechanisms are repeated? Have a chiropractor dedicated to him who adjusts his spine every few holes – if indeed that works for him? Have, heaven forbid, surgery? Or consult a movement-analysis expert who can explain not just his injury but also how he might get better consistency as well as improved ball-striking through an all-encompassing assessment? Only he can decide. However, this is what one movement-analysis specialist can offer (based on an extensive education in musculoskeletal anatomy, injury mechanisms in sport, motor control and even biomechanics; see more in the “about” section of this website):

Generic and golfer-specific analysis: What are the positions and movements of the human body that would cause injury in any golfer? What are this particular golfer’s specific joint constraints that need to be taken into account while helping him make an effective, efficient and safe(r) golf swing? While specific plans would need a detailed history, posture, gait, and swing analysis, the generic aspect would apply to all golfers with similar swing mechanics.

The first order of business would be to look at the etiology of the injury (it may have been caused by other factors and only exacerbated by golf, but that is bad enough). The only “history” available is that the L5-sacrum joint of the vertebral column was “out”; there was pain upon rotation; and “massive” pain when the swing was “poor”. (A highly-researched article on back injury in golf here: https://thegolfnewsnet.com/kirankanwar/2017/04/12/golfers-lack-spine-104621/). In the absence of any further information, the first reaction should be “no backswing which separates the thoracic from the lumbar rotations”! In addition, other positions which cause greater than normal compression or shear loads at the site of injury include excessive spinal forward flexion (see pics below) and a big “crunch” factor of lateral flexion (side bend) and axial rotation during the downswing, and past impact. So that explains the mechanisms of injury during the downswing, which takes place at high speed, excessively loading the spine. What next? Look at other golfers with similar issues and use solutions they might have hit upon? For instance Jason Day in an interview some months ago said he was reducing backswing length to reduce downswing “crunch” (which was the position when he felt pain)? No! 

The most scientific solution would be to work backwards from the requirements of the downswing and impact – in this case less forward flexion and less lateral bending during downswing axial rotation. Then one should figure out set-up and backswing positions that will permit a safer downswing (not forgetting such positions must still allow the club to arrive at the ball from the inside, and at speed, to fulfill good ball-flight requirements). Generic scientific solutions would include 1. a more upright posture, 2. keeping the right (Willett is right-handed) shoulder lower than the left throughout the backswing, and 3. changing the manner in which torso rotation happens.

These latter two solutions are unique and thus unusual, but absolutely vital, and even supported by what we know from basic musculoskeletal anatomy, neuro-anatomy and motor control. As regards 2. above, why have a right shoulder that is higher than the left at the top (see pic below of lower left shoulder, ie. higher right shoulder, at the top)? It creates  a far longer range of motion for the right shoulder to have to drop down through, than if it stayed down throughout the backswing. In addition, the core muscles and largest torso rotators – the abdominal obliques – would then have a forward (towards target) instead of downward (towards the ball), line of action. Should a golf downswing make the core move down towards the ball or forwards, towards target?

As regards 3. above, did you know the brain has an area of gray matter called the basal nuclei/ganglia which send motor commands to set-up the torso so that it can be positioned to better facilitate limb movement? And that there are separate pathways for commands going to the trunk and proximal parts of limbs to travel down, than there are for messages to distal parts of limbs? That means the brain itself tends to separate the movements of the proximal (eg. pelvis) and distal (eg. arms, forearms, hands) parts of the body. Suppose we were to simplify the brain’s job by consciously positioning the body so the brain has a less complex movement to supervise?

Modern motor control theory also suggests concepts that might support such ideas. A paper (this is a must-read paper written by the postulators of the concept:                   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2965031/ ) on a fairly new concept termed the “leading joint hypothesis”, tells us that, “Unraveling the principle used by the brain to organize human movements is one of the primary goals of motor control research. The need for a principle or a control strategy is apparent when the task can be performed via many different movements, yet a single movement needs to be produced.” In addition, the authors, while explaining their hypothesis state that, “The leading role is endowed to a joint that has mechanical advantage in the limb. Because of relatively high inertia and the increased musculature of the proximal limb segment, the mechanical influence of proximal joint motion on distal joints is much higher than the influence of distal joint motion on proximal joints. For this reason, the leading joint is often the proximal joint that acts similar to a whip handle, a single wave of which can cause complex motion of the cord.” All of these concepts might be said to argue for a  trail side of the body that stays down and does not rise during the backswing, as well as a pre-swing positioning of the pelvis, through desirable torso rotation.

Incidentally, any improvement in positions and movements that reduce the potential for injury will also improve ball striking and consistency because after all, if all joints are positioned based on their design capabilities, they do not get “stuck” in the middle of other joints moving “this way and that”. All body parts are then able to act in cohesion to produce a “domino-effect” downswing, which places the least possible loads them all, and allows a smooth-flowing, without-volition, downswing.

The Role of a Motion Analysis Specialist in ANY Sport

The Role of a Motion Analysis Specialist in ANY Sport

According to modern sports coaching theory, all sports training involves two major aspects – tactical skills and technical skills. In golf, tactical skills would mainly involve course management, but could also include golf set make up and customization, and perhaps mental skills training. These aspect of golf can be trained by any coach or instructor with adequate credentials. However, technique is another issue altogether.

Technical skills – in any sports movement – involves the planning of a movement which should be maximally effective, efficient and safe. That is, the movement should have the best outcomes (distance, direction and trajectory in golf), utilize the least amount of energy, and reduce the potential for injury. Surely this aspect of movement should be analyzed and taught by a movement analysis expert? One with a serious understanding of how the body and brain work to create movement? Especially in the 21st century, when we have access to so much research in a variety of sports sciences. Today, more than ever, it is important to plan movement around knowledge of all the most important human movement related sciences.

What can a movement analysis specialist actually offer? Such a person should be able to look at a variety of movements, and with some basic experience of it, plus an understanding of the end-goals of the movement, understand how best to reverse engineer those goals (rather than merely looking at how the best players in the sport do it). As a result, during the forward movement, the body’s joints should be able to come together to make a fairly synchronized movement without too much (or any) effort on the part of the sportsperson. The reverse engineering would be at two levels – generic with respect to human joint capabilities and specific based on an analysis of each individual’s particular situation.

Having done an internship at ASMI, the world’s premier baseball pitching biomechanics research institute; some recent research for the women’s 2016 Olympics gold-medal winning sitting volleyball team; plus, of course, quite a bit of research on the golf swing since 1993, one point stands out. To impart the best technique needs serious outside-the-box thinking so we can break away from traditional movement concepts which were developed in a less scientific era, and have not yet been tested/researched from a whole-body perspective.

OK, enough of the what-needs-to-happen speech. Here’s a concrete example. An enthusiastic tennis player posted a video of his tennis serve, which eventually caused a rotator cuff injury and subsequent surgery and, in his words, “… video was from the other day and that was the last serve of the day for me because it felt impinged. There’s very little subacromial space available and my arm is moving up too fast with too much need for internal rotation. I would love to get back into tennis without having to serve underhand.”

In such a scenario, as in most others, traditional responses (based on the responder’s profession) might be about tightness of some muscles, or no backswing rotation, or too much arms movement. A more holistic approach would be completely different.

The analysis might go something like this: Question 1: Which specific movement might be implicated in the rotator cuff impingement? When the arm abducts maximally, the humerus hits the acromio-clavicular arch unless it is externally rotated first, as seen in the picture on the right (a nice randomly googled reference with interesting information on the topic: http://www.dailybandha.com/2011/04/shoulder-kinematics-in-yoga.html).

 

Question 2: Why is the arm not able to externally rotate more? Any movement with a “narrow” elbow i.e. a more flexed elbow is already more internally rotated than one in which there is more width. Question 3: How could the shoulder be positioned to be less internally rotated at the start of its forward movement? By having the upper-arm abducted to about 90 degrees and not getting any closer, during the rest of the movement. Question 4: If this tennis player is wider, what next? At least two biomechanists I know have said a longer backswing arc gives a person more time to develop greater acceleration. I’ve never agreed because extra distance alone cannot speed up movement – that needs a reduction of time to accomplish. And also, when human muscles get more forceful, they slow down, not speed up (force-velocity relationship of muscles). What the width will do for this player is that he will have more time for his arm to reach the shorter distance to ball-impact, because the arm will already be partway abducted and will mainly only need some elbow extension. Some of the time saved can be utilized in tilting his body away from the descending ball so that he gets some trunk elevation instead of purely arms elevation to help him reach the ball. This trunk lateral flexion also means the core will become engaged and the strong shoulder girdle muscles (trapezius, rhomboids) as well as strong shoulder muscles (latissimus dorsi and pectoralis major) can support the shoulder girdle and humerus better. When that happens, the arm will not be swinging at high speed on its own with its much smaller muscles. The powerful core muscles – the external and internal obliques might become involved too, thus stabilizing the entire torso for the arm to move comfortably off. The pictures below show our intrepid tennis player versus Federer.

Once these concepts and more, based on a personal and more detailed evaluation of the tennis player have been solidified, the tennis player’s existing coach can enter the picture with ideas such as using a lighter racket, or connecting the ball later during its descent or other such plans but the movement analysis specialist with an understanding of anatomy, injury, motor control and even biomechanics needs to make big picture plans first. The world probably has few people who have a solid education, not just good instincts, in these subjects, so more such specialists should be the focus of all sports teaching associations and organizations.

Thinking Outside the (Golf-Swing) Box – Why it Matters

Thinking Outside the (Golf-Swing) Box – Why it Matters

Why think outside the box in golf – whatever for? The whole world has played the game quite successfully for Centuries, after all. Read on for a reasonably-well-presented case in favor of the idea. The golf swing has been passed down basically unchanged, from the times of the shepherds of Scotland, who were merely young lads whiling away their days trying to hit pebbles on the ground with their shepherd’s crooks.

“Basically unchanged?” you gasp in shock. Why there’s the classic swing and there’s the modern swing and so many others besides, how can you say the swing remains basically unchanged? Mainly because while they look superficially different, at the most elemental level they are all the same – they all have too much movement. They all have rotation of the body and a rocking up and down of the shoulders and most also have weight-shift. And why less movement is better is because of some important scientific facts:

  • The golf downswing lasts 0.3 seconds
  • It takes a few milliseconds for messages to pass from the brain to the muscles (depending on the conduction velocity of nerves) and a few milliseconds for the muscles to start contracting (electro-mechanical delay)
  • The brain is capable of self-organization but in conditions of fatigue/injury/anxiety the movement gets changed to adapt to what the brain is able to make the body do in the circumstances

From a motor control perspective too, it is important to reduce movement. Modern motor control theory tells us that while some variability is good, it should be at a minimum at the time the club connects the ball. In other words, there should be some level of consistency in club-ball contact. Although motor control theorists believe that the brain can self-organize a movement, however complex, quite adequately, given enough practice, we know that not to always be the case. Recent interviews with several PGA TOUR players revealed what the best players in the world have to say about consistency. One player said, “I’m consistently inconsistent –  that’s what’s beautiful about my game.” Another said, “Consistency varies with your thoughts – when thoughts can be consistent, the game can be consistent.” So what stopped him from having the same thoughts every time? “Sometimes that one thought won’t work so one starts changing it up thinking one needs something else…” In short, no-one from recreational golfers to the best golfers in the world is able to be consistent, and in fact one could say that while some of us “suck” all of the time, all of us suck some of the time!

So, what outside the box thinking might help improve consistency for all golfers? A reduction of backswing movement will surely be beneficial, as less joints will have to be unbent and untwisted to return the club the the ground within the 1/3rd second the downswing lasts. Which movement can one reduce? Let’s start by asking what skilled golfers can do, and less skilled golfers cannot. Less-skilled golfers cannot lift the lead shoulder as high, cannot shift as much weight forward, cannot rotate through as great a range, and cannot come from the inside as regularly as skilled golfers do. So, how about we:

  1. Reduce how far the lead shoulder has to lift to be at its highest at impact
  2. Reduce the distance weight has to shift forward
  3. Create some backswing rotational stretch in the important core muscles of rotation so downswing rotation is assured even for less-skilled golfers.
  4. Get rid of the positions that cause over-the-top OR use a movement that allows a “from the inside” path

The first and second are easily accomplished. Simply keep the back more upright and the lead shoulder higher from address to impact, and keep slightly more weight on the forward leg for the entire backswing. Next, a pre-swing rotation of the trunk, when combined with the way the arms move during the backswing gives a golfer more stretched muscles which can effortlessly contract (even for less-strong individuals) for greater power at impact. The side benefit of the pre-swing rotation is that it rules out the left side of the fairway (for a right-handed golfer) making it very difficult to make any of the “pull” group (pull slice, pull, pull hook) of shots, and thus increasing consistency. Finally, if the entire trail shoulder-arm complex is kept lower than the lead one, throughout the backswing, for many reasons, the trail shoulder is less likely to make an over-the-top downswing.

Face it folks, it all comes back to the same thing – you need to think outside the box and move to a golf swing (ie the Minimalist Golf Swing) that’s been researched and studied for decades and can instantly give any skill level of golfer not just more consistency but better ball-striking as well as less scope for injury.

What is consistency? How does MGS produce greater consistency?

What is consistency? How does the MGS gives you greater consistency?

What is consistency? Surely it is the first thing most golfers should strive for, so that they can have better scores on a repeating basis? So, for the full-swing, consistency can mean total number of fairways hit, or number of greens made, on a regular basis. This in turn would mean a golfer should have greater consistency at the shot-level so that ball speed, ball launch angle, ball starting angle as well as starting spin should repeat to a greater extent. Incidentally, an article that will be in the June issue of my avid golfer magazine (check this link in June 2017: http://myavidgolfer.com/the-magazine/) is about what PGA Tour players think about consistency and what they do to try to achieve it.

In recent years a lot of research has been focused on variability within movement and how that is supposed to have many benefits. However, not all variability is good. “Good” variability is that of the various body parts having differing amounts of movement in each swing made by a golfer, while still all being able to come together to produce the least possible variability in the “outcome”. Outcome variability, or changes in shot patterns (such as a mixed-bag of fat, thin, hooked and sliced shots) each time a golfer hits a shot is then, naturally, “bad” variability.  And “bad” variability can therefore be considered inconsistency.

One recent study on movement variability (“Motor Abundance and Control Structure in the Golf Swing” by Morrison, McGrath and Wallace, 2016) in the golf swing found that higher skilled golfers (handicaps below 4) are better able to synchronize the many joint movement capabilities of their bodies to produce better results than intermediate golfers (handicaps 10-18). Stated in simple terms, while the body (head, trunk and legs) and arms might bend and rotate in a slightly different way in each swing, the more skilled golfers are still able to produce greater consistency of ball striking at impact. Also, all body movements during the golf swing can be divided into those which actively affect the resulting ball flight (outcome) and those which do not.  With increasing expertise, more and more body parts are free to move in different ways without affecting the result of the swing.

From other research in golf we know that there are 4 important movements which produce greater club speed –weight shift, torso rotation, lead shoulder/hand vertical lift and lower-body-before-upper-body sequencing – during the downswing. Here too, skilled golfers are able to produce greater amounts of desirable movements than less skilled golfers do. We also know that even highly skilled golfers can revert to the movement styles (in terms of variability of movement) of more novice golfers under conditions of anxiety or fatigue or when they have made changes to their swing movements which have not yet become “grooved in”. In other words, all golfers are capable of the movements seen in less skilled golfers under the right circumstances!

Every golfer, then, can be considered to occasionally regress to a less-efficient movement, and thus it might be beneficial for all golfers – skilled and less skilled alike – to use a swing which intentionally “locks up” some joints so their movements cannot vary too much, while releasing others to be “as free as they like”. Enter the Minimalist Golf Swing (MGS) which does just that. It positions the golfer’s head, torso and legs (ie. “body”) to need very little of both downswing weight shift and vertical lead-shoulder lift, to quickly (the downswing lasts only 0.27 to 0.34 seconds!) get into the impact positions typically seen in the more skilled golfers. It also forces more body rotation than a “typical” swing, by positioning the body in a rotated-away-from-target position before the backswing even begins. The MGS therefore prevents the body from having too much movement, in too many directions, during the downswing – it reduces side-to-side and up-and-down movement, and mainly involves only rotation. While body movement is thus being reduced to essentially one dimension only, what about the arms? The MGS requires only one area of conscious focus during the backswing – on the lead upper-arm (left, of a right-handed golfer). The trail arm is free to do what it likes, at this time.

[A side-note for technical clarification: the trail arm only appears to be “given complete freedom”. In reality, the stay-in-trail-side-lower, side-bend torso position of the MGS backswing forces the trail shoulder into better “external rotation” which in turn allows this arm to help deliver the club to the ball “from the inside”. The experts who study the brain’s ability to “self-organize” movement in different “situations” (more correctly termed “constraints”) may not remember that certain joints cannot function well from some positions, especially in a double-handed movement like the golf swing, so the brain cannot always self-organize for optimal results. The MGS’ unique ability to maximize trail arm external rotation is perhaps the one of the biggest keys to its ability to produce greater ball-striking consistency. See pictures of TOUR Pros top-of-backswing internally rotated shoulders below (one even in putting!). The importance of top-of-backswing trail-shoulder external rotation is, however, a topic for another day.]

As a result of all this intentional positioning of body parts during the set-up and backswing of the MGS, the downswing is often termed the “do-nothing-intentional” or “let-it-happen” part of the movement. Because of the inherent inability of some body parts to move any-which-way, the downswing is able to deliver the club to the ball on a more consistent basis, regardless of the brain’s ability or otherwise (as when a golfer is tired or anxious, for instance) to control movement.

Book Review : Dynamics of Skill Acquisition

Review of the book:  Dynamics of Skill Acquisition – A Constraints Led Approach

by Keith Davids, Chris Button, Simon Bennett

  • A book that explains how human movement is controlled when learning a new skill
  • A lot of useful information on how to coach sport
  • Very explanatory of the benefits of using the MGS movement to create a more goal-directed end-point (ie impact)

What a phenomenal book – for any maker of movement, or teacher of it. And for users of the MGS. It is completely research-based and involves all the latest theories on “motor learning”, a formal term for the learning of a new or even changed, movement.

Chapter 1 offers a historical overview of the ideas that were believed to explain how the learning and coordination of movement is controlled. Earlier theorists believed that the brain acted as a central controller sending top-down commands to muscles to create movement. It was also believed that years of practice led to invariant performance, which was considered to be a good thing.

Chapters 2 to 5 explain all the modern theories of how movement really takes place and why it changes with each performance. It is now understood that human movement involves chaos and complexity (read this great – and simply explained – paper to know more about those two terms: http://necsi.edu/projects/baranger/cce.pdf), and variability is desirable so that movement can be altered based on the challenges encountered. Variability is also useful for reducing the effect of repetitive loads on identical body structures over time, and helps to slow down the progression towards injury. It is now known that the human is capable of “self-organization”, which means that the parts involved in a movement spontaneously adapt, based on the constraints of a particular movement. For instance, a golfer might encounter differing constraints on each shot such as the slope on which he/she stands, the wind conditions or the stiffness in a particular body joint. Thus the human body self-organizes movements based on the varying “conditions” or “constraints” it finds itself in. “Constraints” are the restrictions placed on each movement, and depend on the body and mind of a performer, the requirements of a particular sport’s tasks, and on the environment surrounding a particular action. They are formally terms “organismic”, “task” and “environmental” constraints.

The book then goes on to explain learning or how a performer can best learn a new movement – should instruction be verbal, visual, video-based or what? Even sound and touch are important tools for new learning. Chapter 6 explains how a coach might deal with individual differences, Chapter 7 talks of how best to organize practice to optimize learning, Chapter 8 is about how best to use verbal guidance, and Chapter 9 explains how observational learning takes place.

Finally Chapter 10 has case studies which explain all of the above information based on specific cases of motor skill learning, from a soccer shot to amputee gait.

This is a must-read book for any serious coach in any sport, as it contains all the latest researched information. Most of the book has complex concepts which become easier to understand because of the simple, real-life examples carefully factored into the explanations. Personally, this book had many epiphanies which explained why the MGS might speed up learning through the artificial means of restricting some degrees of freedom (of the torso) while loosening up others (of the arms) so that it would be more likely for any skill level of performer not to regress under conditions of fatigue or arousal, when the golf swing has so much overall and individual joint-based movement that sequencing can become a problem during the mere 1.3rd second that the downswing lasts.

The book can be purchased at: https://www.amazon.com/Dynamics-Skill-Acquisition-Constraints-Led-Approach/dp/0736036865

Golf the mental game: Thinking your way around the course

Book Review: 

Golf the mental game – thinking your way around the course

When a golf book is written by someone who has great expertise in his own field, and has also been a golfer since age 10, it is sure to hold much value for the reader. Tom Dorsel is a clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology, and has been listed as one of the USA’s top golf psychologists by Golf Magazine. Moreover, this book is a compilation of 50 lessons which were first published in Golf Illustrated.

So, how can this book help the average golfer? According to Dorsel, when something goes wrong on the golf course, the reason is only related to three things – thoughts, emotions and actions. If a golfer can identify which area is an issue for a particular shot, then steps can be made to correct the fault.

“It doesn’t take long to realize that golf is harder than school,” says Dorsel. Which is why the three Rs known to create success at school – Reading ‘Riting and ‘Rithmetic – convert to the nine Rs important for golf. In addition, while many think that all sports psychology has to offer is relaxation training, it can be so much more. It involves helping a golfer build confidence, focus, handle pressure, think strategically, learn how to practice scientifically and can even teach one that there is a mental side to selecting golf equipment and apparel.

Part I of the book talks of the basics and the nine Rs. Part II is about clear thinking and offers tips on concentration and visualization. While Part II is about the thoughts, Parts III and IV are about emotions and actions. Controlling the emotions requires mental toughness and avoiding choking, while good actions can take place during practice as well as play. Finally, Part V is about golf’s mental mysteries and how to solve them.

This book has been written in simple language and makes for easy reading as it is not dreary, while at the same time offering many practical, simple-to-follow tips.

A note from the author: The book is available through Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Golf-Mental-Game-Thomas-Dorsel/dp/1581826494

 

Tiger Woods’ Future in Golf

Tiger Woods’ Future in Golf

  • Why is it dangerous for “typical” golf instruction to be given to an injured golfer?
  • What is “typical” golf instruction?
  • What can the average golfer learn from all this?

Continuing on from the previous blogpost, this one discusses exactly what a coach desirous of working with leading golfers, especially those who are injured or highly inconsistent should have a deep knowledge of:

  1. An understanding of the structure and function of seven main “joints” involved in golf –

The spine, three upper-limb joints (shoulder, elbow, wrist) and three lower limb joints (hip, knee, ankle), as well as how their roles change in a “closed kinetic chain” situation, when the furthest (distal) parts of the limb (hands or feet respectively) are not free to move independently (are attached to the club grip or touching the ground, respectively).

  1. Knowledge of which tissues (such as bone, muscle, tendon, ligament, cartilage) are commonly injured and the mechanism of those injuries, or which factors are likely to cause them.
  2. Knowledge of which body segments are typically injured and the etiology or causation of those

There are several risk factors involved with injury (and they are often the same factors that cause poor/inconsistent ball striking). Some are modifiable (that a coach/fitness trainer/physiotherapist/chiropractor) can do something about, others are not, but even so, non-modifiable risk factors must be taken into account and worked around, if at all possible.

 

If a coach has all this knowledge, she/he should be able to understand, based on posture, gait, images of former injury, anthropometrics and even psychological makeup the predisposing risk factors. Then the factors which might take an athlete from predisposed to susceptible should be considered and avoided.

 

While a physiotherapist or fitness coach could help change some anatomical or neuromuscular risk factors, the main risk factor a coach can eliminate or reduce the effect of, is biomechanical. Which loads act on a particular joint or several joints, what adverse effects will that have, and what can the coach do to alleviate reduce loads so as to lower the risk for injury, while improving ball-striking and consistency at the same time, if possible?

The days of “use this grip”, “swing on that plane”, “lag at this stage”, “cover the ball”, “rotate the thorax over a stable pelvis” should be long gone, because none of that information has ever been scientifically proven to be effective, nor have the injury-causing potential of those ideas been studied. Also, it must be clearly understood that the golfer controls the club, and thus body-positions and movements through impact is all that changes ball-flight and reduces the likelihood of injury.

Tiger Woods (and Pat Perez) – Can he or Can’t he WIN AGAIN

Tiger Woods – Can he or Can’t he WIN AGAIN

  • Would you place your money on Tiger?
  • What are the odds?
  • What can you learn from his mistakes?

Pat Perez, a two-time winner on the PGA TOUR very recently commented about Tiger Woods, the 14 time Majors, and 79 times Tour winner, “Tiger knows he can’t beat anybody.” Is it true, then, that Tiger is done?

It all depends on whether his doctors and surgeons even give him the all-clear to do so. Also on whether he can still swing pain-free. If yes, then he certainly has the patience and “zone” required to win, if only his golf swing will hold up to the rigors of competitive golf and all the practice that entails.

Why did he make all those changes, you might wonder? Especially when he was already the most dominant player golf has ever seen? Well, one can tell that he is probably the type of person who not only wants to win but win strong, with a powerful, repetitive swing. According to Hank Haney’s book, “The Big Miss”, in the era of Haney (and probably before too) he rarely even used his driver. Which leading golfer would want to win that way? And he also obviously had a great curiosity about biomechanics, as his next two coaches after Haney “got” Tiger based on their study of that subject.

Biomechanics is generally explained as the study of movement and the external forces (such as gravity or ground reaction force or air resistance) that help to create movement. However, in golf, any movement created is muscular, with the muscles of the legs pushing off the ground and the muscles of the hands controlling the club. If that is the case, surely an understanding of the design of the human body – its muscles as well as its joints, tendons and ligaments, is more important than an understanding of external forces which the human body may or may not be able to withstand the application of?

A study of musculoskeletal structure, shows us that inconsistency and injury are two sides of the same coin. When the body’s major joints are poorly positioned, they make compromises during the downswing, somehow managing to deliver the club to the ball – in any possible manner. Even though modern golfers work out in order to create muscle-strength (and hypertrophy or bulking up), the supporting structures (tendons, ligaments, cartilage) do not have much of a blood supply (and sometimes none) and do not strengthen in proportion, becoming the weak link in inefficient, violent, aggressive movements (which we know Tiger has always made!)

So, what sort of swing changes have his previous coaches recommended and how did they affect his body? His knee injury, whether or not from golf, was certainly exacerbated by being told to “snap it out of the way” or words to that effect. Research has shown that any movement which forcefully shifts weight onto the knee while decelerating and straightening it out, on a repeated basis, is the main mechanism of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears. [For a serious student of injury, the following is a great paper: https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=acl+injury+in+soccer+players+part+1+mechanism&btnG=&as_sdt=1%2C44&as_sdtp= ]

Then, from looking at the swing he has worked on in recent years, he has made an exaggerated a squat-jump movement during his downswing. This puts greater load on the spine. When combined with the steep tilt of his shoulder-plane during the downswing (reduced since late last year) and a fast rotation of the hips towards target, it is possible for spinal disc herniation to occur, which is what Tiger next suffered after the ACL surgeries.

The only way for Tiger Woods to continue on in competitive golf is through a thorough analysis of all his predisposing internal factors, joint by joint, then having him make anatomically meaningful swing changes. It is NOT enough to merely address the current body-region of injury. He should use a swing which will prevent recurrence of old injuries as well as reduce the likelihood of new ones.

So, until such time that Tiger and his team understand how important it is to bring on board golf coaches with an academic education in all the movement sciences – who can thus serve as the “air-traffic-controller” between his surgeons, physiotherapists, chiropractors, fitness coaches, nutrition experts and more –  it might just be the case that @PatPerezGolf is right!

Round-up of all the Bells and Whistles at the PGA Show 2017

The PGA Show is the must-visit venue for anyone who loves golf. To network, meet up with old friends, to check out what’s new in the industry and even to attend some educational seminars.

As regards to the new – or fairly new – innovations of 2017, there were many interesting, scientific products, reviewed here in random order.

Gears Golf offers an 8 camera (optical), three-dimensional motion capture system, the standard in the biomechanics industry. What it can uniquely capture according to the company, amongst all of its many features, is the impact position of the ball. So, not only can one tell how the club is approaching and departing from the ball, but where on the face of the club it actually connects (https://gearssports.com/).

My Swing Golf is also a full-body motion capturing system, but it does this with waterproof wireless inertial sensors instead of optical markers. These sensors have the capability of measuring acceleration, angular orientation and position all at the same time. The advantage of this technology is that it can be easily taken out into the field, and surely real-life sports performance measurement is the way to go. This system is the brain-child of a professional golfer cum mechanical engineer, Peter Gauthier, so very cleverly involves a full-body set of sensors not just a few, so that body-modeling or the creation of a realistic avatar or body image is closer to that of the actual golfer being studied (https://www.myswing.com/).

Going from the physical to the mental, one education seminar was offered by Dr. Debbie Crews, who explained how the brain plans and executes movement, and what brain state reproduces a person’s best performance. She has, based on her many years of research as a professor at Arizona State University, studied brain activity and created brain maps to indicate the “state of the mind”. This background helped her develop “Opti”, which helps a golfer self-train an ideal brain state for better performance (https://optiinternational.com/).

Mark Metus is a chiropractor who had a booth demonstrating the “neuroconnect” product which his flyer states stands at the intersection between neurology and quantum physics. It does involve a leap of faith but then all of quantum physics relies on that too – after all sub-atomic particles cannot be sensed by the five human senses! The product appeared to work, because Dr Metus’ manual muscle testing showed muscles to be stronger in golf swing positions and gait positions while using the small “devices” than without. This unique product won the 2017 United Inventors Association’s Pinnacle Award during the 2017 Show, implying that it worked for other people too. (neuro-connect.ca)

Trackman, the company whose world-famous product is fondly referred to as the “orange box” introduced (entire distance) ball tracking for putts, to be followed soon by putter tracking as well. The software is able to output not just the parameters that are offered for the full-swing (launch direction, ball speed, distance travelled), but also roll speed, skid distance and roll percent – roll being the quality of ball movement which should predominate in a well-stroked putt. There is even an effective stimpmeter reading possible. (http://trackmangolf.com/products/putting). Trackman’s Texas area representative, Kyle Butler, is a golf professional himself and so a font of information about all Trackman products.

Mark Csencsits is a golf professional with dozens of ideas for improving any golfer’s game. One of his many innovations is the Fatt Matt swing trainer, a prototype for which he displayed during the Show. This is a very useful tool for allowing golfers to train on uneven surfaces and with uneven lies because there are separate platforms for the feet and for the golf ball. As a result, a golfer can adjust each foot independently for slope and also adjust the lie and slope that the ball lies on. It should make for many hours of boredom-free, realistic practice as a golfer experiments with making shots from all sorts of different and difficult positions (http://www.fattmatt.com/trainsmarter.html).

A product that has spread like wildfire throughout the golf industry, and across golf swing, fitness and even shoe-profile applications, admis the BodiTrak pressure mat. Easy to carry and affordable, it provides pressure traces and vertical force information of foot-ground patterns associated with any movement. An ideal product for a golfer or golf instructor wishing to study what is happening at the ground level to better understand how the body, overall, is moving (http://boditraksports.com/).