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Get Into the Swing of Things

Of the 25 million golfers in America, up to 62% may suffer an injury in the game. Low back pain is the most common injury in professional and amateur golfers. Repetitive swinging motions and excessive backswing are a few possible reasons for back injury. According to a recent study in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, modifying your swing might reduce your chances for injury without shortening your drive.

Seven golfers who normally demonstrated an excessive backswing were fitted with a recording device to measure the muscle activity in their lower and middle back, sides, and right side of the chest. The golfers consecutively hit 10 balls as hard as possible using their typical swing, while a device measured club-head speed and accuracy. Next, the individuals were shown how to modify their swing to incorporate a much shorter backswing; they were allowed to practice this swing, and they then hit 10 more golf balls using the modified swing.

A shortened backswing did not significantly decrease club speed or stroke accuracy, and the target spot on the club head also remained the same. However, muscle activity was significantly reduced in the sides and back during various stages of the golf swing. Translation: The golfers were able to hit just as good using the safer swing.

Perhaps you have an exaggerated golf backswing, yet have avoided changing your swing mechanics because of concern it might decrease your game performance. If that is the case, this study should prompt you to minimize your backswing to prevent back injury. It is important to note that this study also showed that a reduced backswing increased shoulder muscle activity; however, shoulder injuries are usually much less debilitating than back injuries.


Bulbulian R, Ball KA, Seaman DR. The short golf backswing: Effects on performance and spinal health implications. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 2001:24(9), pp. 569-575.

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