Physical Therapy Can Help Your Golf Game

Hello everyone! My name is Nickon Sharifabadi, I am a physical therapist at MOTI Physiotherapy, Los Feliz. I have been golfing for more than a decade now and have found myself in an interesting position to combine my hobby with my work. After years of enjoying the game of golf with friends, I decided to focus my craft and work toward improving my golf game. Anyone who has experienced the love/hate relationship with the game of golf, knows it can bring out the most radical emotions… pleasure, joy, frustration, grief, resentment…

It was in my final term in physical therapy school when I stumbled upon the Titleist Performance Institute program located in Southern California. A group of golf coaches, golf pros, and medical providers built a program to educate the golf community and improve the game of many pros on the tour and/or amateurs like myself! I was immediately drawn towards what they offered the tour professionals and started making plans to implement their strategies into my physical therapy practice. Upon completion of my Titleist certification, I was equipped with increased knowledge of the science that goes behind training golfers of all skill levels…to assess the full body, to prescribe fitness/golf exercises to help assist movement deficits, and to implement the performance aspect to get them better than ever before.

The key points I gathered from the program are: there are many physical deficits a person may have with or without pain. Those deficits lead to abnormal movements or faulty swing characteristics. By addressing those deficits, we can begin to alter the mechanics of a swing, decrease the demand on the body to improve longevity, and finally start playing at your true potential!

How do Physical Therapy and Golf relate?

  • As experts of the human body, physical therapists focus on improving your quality of life, whether that is returning you to doing the tasks most necessary in your daily life or returning you to the sport/hobby you most enjoy. There can be beautiful alignment when one of these experts has a passion for your favorite sport, for instance golf. With my personal background in golf, proper training through the Titleist Performance Institute, and a doctorate of physical therapy, the worlds of golf and physical therapy combine to provide you the best care. Golf Physical Therapists can help those with injuries to return to prior level, but can also help non-injured people with optimizing their performance!
    • Rehabilitation: As a physical therapist, we will take you through unique tests and assessments focused on the local impairments in addition to the full body contributing factors. Setting you up with a customized plan of care, we can address your local and global impairments with an end goal of returning to golf in addition to your other hobbies and recreational activities.
    • Performance: Within the last decade, there has been a shift in golf when it comes to body composition and performance. The fitness industry has taken the game of golf by storm with a focus on maximizing golfers’ strength and power. These changes are not only for the spring chickens but have noted significant improvements for the senior tour as well. By utilizing golf-specific movements, we are able to improve your overall muscular recruitment, decrease the demand on the body, and help you achieve an efficient yet powerful swing.

How do physical limitations lead to poor golf swing characteristics?

MOTI offers a unique golf screen for both the injury/rehabilitation and the performance aspects of golf. We screen for everything from mobility and strength to coordination and motor control, helping to paint a picture of the golfer as a whole in order to test, assess, and progress their overall functional capability. The screen will incorporate key body parts and movements required for a pain-free and uninhibited golf swing.

Here are a couple examples of movement tests we might perform during a golf screen, as well as an exercise I might prescribe to address my findings:

Movement Screen: Seated Trunk Rotation fail turning left

Movement Screen: Swing Characteristic Early Extension

Exercise Prescription: Seated trunk rotation
For this exercise, we are going to sit on a stable chair, box, or stool. You will begin by placing a dowel, club, or any stick for that matter behind your neck, gripping both sides relatively firmly, and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Stabilize your lower body with your thighs held together and your feet on the floor. Start the movement by rotating to a side until you have reached your end range. Maintain that position and perform a side bend to that same side. Return back to that rotated position and then continue with the rotation to the same side. Repeat until there is no more rotation for that side. Repeat on the opposite side. This exercise should be pain-free, however, a notable stretch to the trunk. Perform this exercise 5 times to each side, take a break and perform another set.

What is the difference between a Physical Therapist Golf Specialist and a Golf Instructor/Coach?

What if I have some injuries, weaknesses, or am unsure if my body will tolerate golfing without injuring myself… but I want to actually practice swinging?

Lucky for you, physical therapists and golf instructors work in a collaborative nature. We both have our strengths, and therefore refer to one another in order to provide the best care for our patient/client. Working with a small community of trained professionals will not only reduce the likelihood of injuries and improve your physical performance but also enhance your swinging/putting abilities!

Is golf specific physical therapy appropriate for any skill level?

  • Physical therapy for golfers is beneficial for all skill levels!
  • As a beginner, we can assist you in identifying potential impairments which may hinder you from picking up the sport in the same fashion as other beginners. Finding those impairments and addressing them early on in the process will allow us to limit poor movement patterns and succeed at a faster rate.
  • Intermediate players might find that a trained professional is finally able to point out movement patterns and physical limitations that are preventing them from striking the ball efficiently and consistently.
  • High level and low handicap golfers can benefit by fine tuning small unrealized limitations. In addition, there is always a lot of room for growth in the strength and conditioning phase which will allow highly skilled players to golf with more power/performance to untap their full potential.

Do I need to be in pain to be screened and treated by a golf specialized physical therapist?

Absolutely not! There are many cases both in sports and normal activities where ailments and limitations are laying dormant. We can find these local and/or global impairments to address them prior to injury in a preventive manner. Golf is a sport focused on longevity, as many golfers play late into their senior years!

For more information, reach out to Dr. Nickon Sharifabadi, PT, DPT, TPI-Certified – MOTI Physiotherapy, Los Feliz: [email protected]

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