Warm up for Golf
Golfers need to be educated about the benefits of warm-ups, particularly for injury prevention, according to Fradkin et al. (2003). A survey of more than a thousand randomly selected amateur golfers from three different golfing venues in Melbourne in June 1999 confirmed the widely held suspicion that most golfers do not bother warming up. More than 70% of the sample stated that they never or seldom warmed up, while a mere 3.8% reported warming up on every occasion they played. Golfers claiming to warm up stated that they generally performed stretches (89.6%), ball hits (27.1%) or air swings (23%), with only 0.2% performing aerobic exercise.
The most common reasons given for warming up included:
Common reasons for not warming up were:
Does it matter, you may ask? Well, yes, it does from the point of view of injury prevention, since golf is a popular sport with no age limits, and the tendency for the players to be older and often not in good physical condition, contributes to injury risk. Ironically but perhaps predictably it was the older golfers in this study who were least likely to warm up.
The researchers point out that, according to emergency departments and sports medicine clinics, golfers commonly suffer sprains and other overuse injuries as well as traumatic acute injuries, falls and impacts with golf balls. Pro-golfers have a higher rate of injury (lifetime injury risk of 89% compared with 57-62% for amateurs), but amateurs tend to have less well conditioned bodies and therefore place greater stress on their musculo-skeletal systems during the golf swing.
An appropriate warm-up for golfers would include aerobic exercise to raise body temperature, followed by stretching the "golf muscles and joints" (hands, wrists, forearms shoulders, lower back, chest, trunk, hamstrings and groin) and, finally, by a series of golf swings with progressive increases in the range of movement and vigour.
In this study, golfers who claimed to know what sort of warm-up reduced injury risk were more likely to warm up than those who didn't. And the researchers conclude: 'Knowledge of the injury prevention benefits of warming up appears to be a significant motivator of positive attitudes and behaviours.
Although warming up is widely promoted as an important measure to enhance performance and prevent injury in both amateur and professional golfing, there has been no scientific proof to date that it works. But that has all changed with the research by Fradkin et al. (2004) of the first controlled study to investigate the effects of a golf-specific warm-up and conditioning programme on club head speeds in amateur golfers, which has demonstrated significant benefits.
Twenty male golfers were matched in pairs for age and handicap, with one of each pair randomly placed in either an exercise or control group. The exercise group completed a golf-specific warm-up routine and conditioning programme 4-5 times per week for five weeks, while the control group simply adhered to their normal practice routines.
Club head speed of 10 practice strokes, assessed by two dimensional video analysis in a laboratory setting at the outset of the study, was rechecked one week later and then again seven weeks later.
Key findings were as follows:
"While practice is essential for perfecting the golf swing," conclude the researchers, "data from this study suggests that sport specific conditioning is also valuable... This study has shown that by warming up immediately prior to play performance is significantly improved, and by performing it 4 or 5 times a week for five weeks, performance is even further improved."
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