Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Asymmetries: What's the Problem?

Asymmetries are some of the biggest predictors of injury in our population, especially in athletes. By 'asymmetries', I am referring to joints and/or muscles that perform differently from one side to the other.

Example: A sprinter with 20 degrees of hip extension in the left hip and 35 degrees of hip extension in the right hip is at risk of injury. Why? When a sprinter is at full stride, hip extension is utilized in the trailing leg. If, with every stride, the difference between the left and right hip motion is 15 degrees, the pelvis, hips, and lumbar spine (at the very least) will absorb that difference in the form of strain. When the tissue threshold is met, the sprinter will develop pain.

Now comes the interesting part. Most health care practitioners are trained to treat the sprinter's pain. As such, this athlete will receive stretches, strengthening exercises, therapies to decrease the pain, manipulations, and possibly medication or surgery. But what if there were a system designed that could have caught this injury before it ever happened? Well, there is. Check out the following website: http://graycookmovement.com/?p=29 If you are an athlete or health care professional and do not know Gray Cook, you should change that. Asymmetries have been shown to be reliable predictors of injury. In the example above, it would be better for the sprinter to have 20 degrees of hip extension bilaterally than to have asymmetrical findings. In the coming years, I 'predict' (speaking of predictions) that Cook's FMS (Functional Movement Screen) system will continue to gain popularity in athletes as well as non-athletes. With strong predictors of injury, such as asymmetries, within the system, our patients and clients can not afford for us to under-utilize the FMS.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Hip Pain: Does it mean I have a problem with my hip?

The answer is, of course, not necessarily. Pain can arise from many tissues: muscles, tendons, ligaments, joint capsules, bones, nerves, etc. While certainly all of these components collectively comprise the hip (and can cause a great number of conditions that lead to hip pain), hip pain does not necessarily arise from the hip itself. Referred pain patterns are not uncommon and should be considered when diagnosing hip pain. This becomes a very important distinction when working with golfers. Hip pain can develop as a result of so many different problems. It matters where the pain is located (front, back, side, combination, etc.) and what type of pain is being described (sharp, shooting, dull, achy, burning, etc.). The golf swing can cause the pain or it may not. Is the pain arising from the hip or from somewhere else that causes the hip to hurt? As a golfer, it is important to be evaluated by a doctor who is familiar with the golf swing and the biomechanics involved in the movement.

Recently, I saw a patient (an avid golfer) in the office who was experiencing hip pain that had been getting worse. The patient had received a full work-up on the hip from another provider and had undergone therapy for pain. Despite extensive efforts, the pain was becoming worse. When the patient presented in my office, I did the most obvious thing to do: I examined the painful hip. But after the evaluation, it was evident to me that the hip was not the generator of the pain. So I looked at the next most likely cause of hip pain (outside of the hip itself) and uncovered the culprit. It originated in the lumbar spine; L4/5 to be exact, and our findings were confirmed by MRI.

The important take-away here is that referred pain can be tricky to diagnose. If you are experiencing pain that has not been managed to your satisfaction, it can be worth your time and effort to seek out a second opinion. And when looking for a second opinion, look for a doctor that is knowledgeable about the golf swing. It can make all the difference in receiving the proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

All the best,

Nathan Williams, DC, MS, TPI-CGFI

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tennis Elbow In The Golfer (confusing, I know)

Tennis Elbow seems to be the injury of choice for golfers in our clinic lately. Don't let the name fool you - a golfer can certainly develop Tennis Elbow. Actually, Tennis Elbow seems to be more common in golfers than tennis players! This condition can make it difficult to swing a club comfortably and, in some cases, force the player to sit out of the game altogether. With the golf season in full-swing (pardon the pun), neither of these options is appealing to most players. So, let's talk about what Tennis Elbow is and how you can prevent it from hindering you this season.

The Mayo Clinic defines Tennis Elbow as a painful condition that occurs when tendons in your elbow are overworked, usually by repetitive motions of the wrist and arm. This is mostly true. But overuse is not the only culprit; misuse is just as troublesome. The pain that you feel on the outside of the elbow is coming from the tendons that attach to the bones. These tendons are also attached to the muscles that make your wrist extend, or bend up. This is important because it is this motion that can cause the condition. It is most common to see Tennis Elbow in the left arm of a right-handed golfer. Also, these players typically complain that they have lost distance, have begun to slice the ball, catch the ball "fat", and/or hit high, weak shots that tend to go to the right. There is one major move that golfers make that can lead to these problems:

Can you see the problem? It is called "scooping the club" and it can lead to all of the shot pattern problems described earlier as well as Tennis Elbow. This move puts a large amount of stress on the muscles that extend the left wrist. When the problem occurs in the left elbow of a right-handed player, it is typically an injury of misuse, not necessarily overuse.

The solution? Stop scooping! Ok, I understand that this is far easier said than done. But in order to prevent the recurrence of pain, it is a must-do. Check with your local golf instructor for drills and swing keys that allow the hands to be ahead of the clubhead at impact. This will reduce the amount of load that is placed on the elbow muscles (and vastly improve shot results at the same time). But what if a player currently has Tennis Elbow? Is there anything that they can do now to improve their condition until the swing change takes place? Yes! The following are good tips to decrease the pain associated with Tennis Elbow:

1) Use ice, NOT heat. Some patients believe heat is the best option for all muscle pain. Au, contraire. A good rule of thumb is if the condition is painful, use ice. If pain is present, then inflammation is not far behind. Heat increases inflammation leading to more pain about two hours after the application of heat. Heat feels good while it is being applied, but leads to more pain afterwards. Ice should be applied for 10-15 minutes and then removed for 45-50 minutes. This cycle can be repeated three times in the morning and three times at night. (Disclaimer: Do not apply ice for more than the prescribed time. It can burn you just like heat).

2) Use a wrist-rest at the keyboard. Once pain is present in the elbow, it does not take much to produce more pain. Typing at a keyboard can force a person to overuse the wrist extensors.

3) Compression bands can help, but should only be used as a temporary solution. Eventually the goal is to address the culprit of the pain and alleviate it permanently. But until that can happen, a compression band can provide some relief to the elbow.

4) Avoid tons of full-swing shots. Use this opportunity to polish up on your short game instead of pounding 200 balls as hard as you can on the driving range. You can still play, just don't over-do it.

5) Avoid sleeping with your arms above shoulder level. We spend as much as 33% of our lives sleeping. It is important to ensure that your sleep position is conducive to the health of your body. Some elbow pain has been linked to sleeping with arms overhead.

If you have any questions, please contact us at Germantown Golf Fitness in Germantown, TN. Our phone number is (901) 590-1065.

All the best,

Nathan Williams, DC, MS, CGFI-MP2

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Importance of Rotation in the Golf Swing

Over the past couple of years, a lot has been said about recent changes in golf instruction. Sean Foley and the Stack and Tilt guys (Andy Plummer and Mike Bennett), among others, are sources of constant discussion due to their seemingly "new" way to swing a golf club (a closer look at traditional swings, however, will reveal that the swing as it has been taught over the last couple of decades is actually the "new" one). I will also say from the outset that I do not promote S&T, but some of their principles are fitting for this article. Sean Foley's approach to the golf swing, on the other hand, seems to be directly in line with my approach. Although the teachings of S&T and Foley are absolutely NOT the same, an area of commonality is the importance that is placed on rotation in the swing. And therein lies the problem. For years we have been taught to "load the right side" during the back swing, and to "shift our weight" to the right at the top of our swing in an attempt to create more power. Some of the greatest swing instructors of our generation have promoted this technique. In David Leadbetter's 2004 book Unlocking Your True Golf Potential, he writes "Sense that your weight is shifting onto your right side as you turn against that braced right knee and thigh" (referring to the back swing). However, research would disagree with this popular method. Loading the right side is an ineffective way to generate and release energy, and it opens the player up to other problems. It is my opinion that this movement pattern leads to inconsistent shot patterns, a loss of distance, and potential injuries. The following is the scientific reasoning for these thoughts:

In physics, Newtonian force is defined as an influence on a body, producing a change in movement (1). This definition applies to Newton's first law that Every material body remains in its state of rest or uniform, unaccelerated motion in a straight line, if and only if it is not acted upon by a net force (2). The problem with this approach is that this describes linear dynamics only. There are many forces, in many vector directions, being applied to a golfer's body and club during the golf swing. Each of these vectors play a role in the net force being translated into the golf ball. The golf swing is comprised of rotational dynamics, which include additional complicating factors. When rotation is added, torque is introduced. Newton's second law states that a body of mass subject to a net force undergoes an acceleration that has the same direction as the force and a magnitude that is directly proportional to the force and inversely proportional to the mass, i.e., F = ma. Torque, by definition, is the tendency of a force to cause or change rotational motion of a body. Torque depends on the magnitude of the force and on where the force is applied relative to the pivot point. Hence, the rotation axis's location greatly affects the torque produced (3).

So, all of that to say this: If the golfer's muscles are the generator of force and the spine is the axis of rotation, it is counter-productive for the generated force to be moved from the axis's original location. No added power is produced by "loading the right side" because the axis of rotation is deviated causing a loss of rotational muscle tension and decreasing the player's ability to transition to the left in the downswing. This difficulty in transitioning to the left on the downswing has caused the most common "miss" among amateurs to become a slice over the past couple of decades. In years prior, the most common "miss" was a hook. In the professional golfer, the most common "miss" has become a block to the right. This is because the player's timing must be perfect in order to return the club back to the ball consistently. If that timing is interrupted, compensations ensue that cause a plethora of problems (i.e. flipping the hands through impact, over-the-top swing planes, hanging-back through impact, sliding, swaying, etc.).

Also, the injuries that result from this movement are usually seen in the right-sided low back, left hip, left knee, and left shoulder. That is because these areas take high amounts of stress during the swing when the player "loads the right side". Stress on these areas can be decreased if the center of mass is not moved from its original position during the back swing.

Baseball pitchers have figured out this concept. How long will it be before more golf instructors figure it out too?

(notice the amount of "loading the right side" during the wind-up in earlier pitching forms)

(notice pitchers now maintain centered weight distribution during the wind-up, relying on rotation and forward motion to generate power and consistency)

All the best,

Nathan Williams, DC, MS, CGFI-MP2

1. Physics, the Human Adventure: from Copernicus to Einstein and Beyond; Holton, G., Brush, S.; 2005; p. 108

2. Physics, the Human Adventure: from Copernicus to Einstein and Beyond; Holton, G., Brush, S.; 2005; p. 108

3. College Physics: Reasoning and Relationships; Giordano, N.; 2009; p. 249

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Shoulder Injuries

In the recent months, we have seen a high number of shoulder complaints. The complaints have ranged from pain in the front of the shoulder to aches in the back near the shoulder blade, and everything in between. Interestingly, many patients are surprised to learn that we manage shoulder pain very effectively at our clinic. According to the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI), shoulder pain is the second most frequently suffered injury experienced by amateur golfers, accounting for more than 20% of all injuries.

Proper swing mechanics are important factors in preventing these injuries, but even swings that function properly can lead to shoulder problems. What, then, leads to these issues and how can you prevent these injuries from occurring? In addition to swing mechanics, the other important factor to evaluate is the function of the shoulder complex itself.

The shoulder complex is the most inherently unstable joint in the human body, so it is important that it functions optimally. It consists of four muscles that comprise the rotator cuff, the anterior/middle/posterior deltoid muscles, a portion of the biceps brachii, and even the pectoralis major and latissimus dorsi. Additionally, the complex includes several ligaments, tendons, and a very important labrum. That is a lot of different tissues that need to be functional in order to be pain-free.

So, in order to decrease the possibility of shoulder injuries due to the golf swing, make sure you have two things:

1) Proper swing mechanics
2) Functional performance of your shoulder complex

Check with your local PGA professional to ensure you have proper swing mechanics and check in at Germantown Golf Fitness @ (901) 590-1065 to have your shoulder complex evaluated prior to the season. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to call.

All the best,

Nathan Williams, DC, MS, CGFI-MP2

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Energy Release During The Golf Swing - Part 3 of 3

During the last two postings, energy Conversion and Transfer have been discussed as they pertain to the golf swing. When Conversion was discussed, the focus was placed on from where the appropriate energy is produced during the golf swing. Last month, energy Transfer was examined and an importance was placed on proper transition phases of the swing that optimize the energy produced during the conversion phase. Now, as the Energy series comes to an end, the most important key of energy within a golf swing will be divulged.

It occurs fairly often...the golfer with a visually appealing swing, yet hits the ball relatively short in terms of distance. This player will swing hard with great effort, yet hit the ball shorter than players swinging much easier. What gives? The answer is simple. The player may have conquered energy conversion and transfer during the swing, but without conquering Energy Release, the player will forever perform at sub maximal levels. See, the steps of energy conversion and transfer in the swing are only preludes to the moment of truth. If energy output does not peak at impact, it is no matter how hard the player swings. Energy Release should be at its maximum at impact, and it is this moment that is the most important.

The paradox to this is that swing speed monitors, launch monitors, and animated simulators do not help determine this critical moment of truth - energy release at impact. When swing speed is measured, it fails to capture sequencing and energy release at impact. As a matter of fact, there is only one technology that captures this important information. The technology captures something called the ‘Kinematic Sequence’. There are a few equipment manufacturers that utilize this technology, and K-Vest is one of them. Talk to your local teaching professional about finding someone in your area that can provide this service. If you happen to be in the Memphis, TN area, call us at Germantown Golf Fitness (901) 590-1065. We specialize in the performance optimization of golfers.

So, after all of this discussion about energy in the golf swing, remember this: energy release that peaks at impact is critically important for producing power and consistency. Do you know if your peak energy occurs at impact? Have you seen your Kinematic Sequence? If you are a serious golfer and you have not been ‘K-Vested’, you are missing out and losing ground.

All the best,

Dr. Williams