07 Wed

Predictors of low back pain in golfers

Predictors of low back pain in golfers

Written by: Paul Kochoa, PT, DPT, OCS, CKTP, CGFI

The number one body part that usually gets injured or hurt in golfers is the lower back (runner up is the wrist).  If you’re a golfer, you’re probably no stranger to back pain after a long round.  A study in the Physical Therapy in Sport journal noted several predictors of low back pain (LBP) in golfers.¹  If you’ve been keeping up with my posts here, you’d know that I’d agree with these results.

High predictors of LBP: Body mass index (BMI), side bridge endurance test, lead hip internal rotation, and hip flexor length.

Body mass index is the ratio of height to weight, you take your weight in kilograms and divide it by your height in meters squared.  Golfers with a below average BMI (<25.7 kg/m2), that means they’re tall and slender, are more likely to have LBP than those with higher BMI values, those who are short and heavy.

The side bridge test is basically the side plank and is a test of abdominal and hip strength and core stabilization.  Golfers who had higher left side bridge times than their right side (>12.5 sec) were highly likely to have LBP.  This indicates a weakness in right side lumbar spine, hips, and core.

The lead hip is the hip that is closer towards the target when a golfer assumes his stance over the ball, for right-handed golfers, the left hip is the lead hip.  Hip internal rotation is when you turn your foot inward in the standing position.  When this motion is limited, a golfer is at high risk of experiencing LBP because of the increase in abnormal forces on the lumbar spine.

Hip flexor length is another predictor that was correlated with increased perception of golf performance.  Tight hip flexors limit proper posture and place abnormal stresses on the low back.

Low predictors of LBP are: trunk flexor endurance, trunk extensor endurance, hip extension strength, and hamstring length.

Bottom line, if you’re tall and slim, have weak lateral core stability, and have tight hips, then you’re at high risk of developing back pain with golf.  Take the appropriate steps to prevent LBP.  Work on core stability, making sure both sides are strong and have good endurance.  Stretch out your hips, make sure your have enough lead hip internal rotation to perform your golf swing correctly.  And go see a physiotherapist / golf fitness instructor to see what else you can do to prevent injury and play better.

If you would like more information, please call Professional Physical Therapy and Training at 973-270-7417.  Our offices our located within the YMCA locations in Madison and Summit, NJ.  You do not need to be a member of the YMCA to visit with us.


1. Evans K, Refshauge KM, Adams R et al. Predictors of low back pain in young elite golfers: A preliminary study. Phys Ther Sport. 2005;6(3):122-130.
Image courtesy of pat138241 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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