If you have a new student or a new member joins, he or she may be asking for a few tips on some nagging, persistent, or even novel issues. Who knows, even you might be having some lingering pain. You are in luck! There are a few tools (screens) that have the potential to give you a good indicator on whether someone should seek out a physical therapist or fitness professional for further assistance.
Full neck rotation is a great indicator in a golfer’s ability to reach a full backswing and maintain his or her posture throughout by keeping the head still over the ball. If full neck rotation cannot occur, your shoulders and thoracic spine will not be able to fully rotate which can lead to power loss or even injury.
With the client standing, shoulders relaxed, and keeping the chin level, have them rotate their head over their left then their right shoulder and look for their ability to touch their chin over the clavicle (collar bone) on each side. Record whether they can touch their chin to their collar bone.
This test is a great indicator of a golfer’s shoulder stability and/or mobility during the golf swing. Our shoulders are an often-overlooked part of the swing but go through nearly their full range of motion during every full swing. We are looking to see how much external rotation occurs at the shoulder joint, as well as how well a golfer can maintain scapular (shoulder blade) stability in their golf posture. Many golfers do have reduced scapular stability and muscle imbalances in our golf stance that can be exacerbated by the large amount of time many of us spend sitting at a desk. Lack of shoulder stability/mobility can lead to shoulder pain and can even be the root cause of back problems.
With the client standing in a standing neutral posture, have them put their arms parallel to the ground with a right angle at their elbow. Instruct them to rotate their arms backwards as far as they can, essentially going into a “touchdown” motion. Based on the position of their forearm, note whether their arms are: less than spine angle, equal to spine angle, or greater than spine angle.
After performing this test in neutral posture, have the client assume their posture as if they were hitting a 5-iron and perform the same process as above and note the same conditions of forearm angle.
Thoracic rotation is an integral component to being able to rotate throughout the duration of your swing. If you can’t get the adequate rotation through your thoracic spine, you may struggle making a full turn or other parts of the body will have to compensate. This can lead to lower back and even shoulder problems from those parts of your body having to help gain a full turn.
An easy way to screen thoracic rotation is to sit on the corner edge of a chair without arms and place your knees and feet together. Cross your arms over your chest and make a full turn to each direction keeping your feet flat on the ground and not scooting on the chair. You are looking to make a turn past 45 degrees (60 in juniors), or beyond diagonal from an imaginary line drawn straight out from your chest at the starting position.
Hip Internal Rotation (IR)
Adequate hip rotation is key to both the backswing and follow through. This will allow a golfer to complete a smooth downswing and a full turn during posting on the lead leg, without compensating through their spine. If you can’t use enough hip rotation, the lumbar and thoracic spine will have to endure larger rotational forces than necessary. Poor hip internal rotation, especially on the posting leg, is a strong indicator of back pain problems in golfers.
Sitting on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the ground and your knees at a 90-degree angle, rotate your foot outward without bending at your trunk. It helps if you use a mirror for this test as it is quite easy to compensate in other areas without noticing. You are looking to reach 45 degrees of hip internal rotation. Draw an imaginary line down the middle of your body and your lower leg should be at least diagonal to that line for adequate hip rotation.
Our goal was to outline a few tests that will give the tools to help your clients have a better idea whether to seek our services. If you have any questions about any of these screens (these are by no means all-inclusive or a substitute for professional medical advice) feel free to shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Western Carolina University
Physical Therapy Intern, Summer 2017