Golf therapy improves pain on and off the green
BARRINGTON – Accelerated Rehabilitation Physical Therapist Alecia Grounds admits that she thought golfing was simple, until she tried the sport for herself.
"It was much harder than I thought," Grounds said.
Already specializing in helping clients improve their running performance, Grounds decided to become Nike Golf Functional Performance certified last February.
The program, powered by the Gray Institute, teaches movement professionals the functional and logical process of golf-specific principals, strategies and techniques.
If a client has pain during or after their golf game, Grounds helps them to break down their movement with video software and correct their swing.
In a scheduled golf evaluation Friday morning, Grounds video-taped the golf swing of Kildeer resident and hobby golfer John Schleder. Grounds used Dartfish video analysis software to assess a golfer's mobility, stability and power.
Grounds said golf therapy is usually a one-time visit. Evaluation and testing takes about an hour and Grounds recommends various exercises to improve mobility at home.
Grounds focuses on how body joints are affected during golf – what happens to ankles, hips, knees and backs during the golf swing and follow through.
But, because of the rehabilitation setting of where she works, Grounds said most of her golf clients are seen post-injury.
"People typically don't want to fix their swing until they are in pain," Grounds said.
The golf evaluation can be paid for out-of-pocket, or covered by insurance if the physical therapy is doctor-prescribed, Grounds said.
Schleder was referred to Accelerated Rehabilitation Barrington by a podiatrist after being struck in a hit-and-run bike accident.
Hit by another biker, Schleder said he experienced constant ankle pain and ligament damage until he started the rehab program.
"Alecia has been outstanding and helpful through the healing process," Schleder said. "The pain is nearly gone."
Playing golf about three times per month during spring and summer, Schleder said he decided to try the golf therapy program in hopes of a pain-free golf season.
"I couldn't swing a golf club immediately after my injury," Schleder said. "I was in a cast for eight weeks. I'm just hoping to return to my fitness routine and maybe gain a few tips."
Using frame-by-frame video analysis, Grounds finds that mobility is different for every client, but most golfers have tightness in the hips. Grounds said she would like to work more closely with golf professionals or personal trainers in the future.
"There's multiple golf courses in the Barrington area and a lot of people physically cannot do what their trainer is telling them to do," Grounds said. "Once we improve mobility at home, correct their mechanics and free up their range of motion, their golf game will improve greatly."
On the green, Grounds recommends warming up and stretching beforehand.
"It's important to stay flexible throughout the entire year, not just during outdoor golf season" Grounds said. "I see more physical therapy patients during the spring because they think if they rest all winter, they'll be good-to-go by spring and they end up hurting themselves doing too much, too soon."
Grounds said her goal is to break the "only hurts when I golf" stigma associated with pain by correcting her client's movement off the green.
If you go:
What: Golf therapy
Where: Accelerated Rehabilitation Centers Barrington, 455 W. Northwest Highway
When: By appointment
Cost/Info: Call 847-381-0372 for information
Golf safety tips
Adjust your swing: Think about your posture before and during your swing. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and distribute your weight equally on booth feet. Avoid hunching over the ball, which may contribute to neck and back strain.
Stay smooth: Don't overemphasize your wrists during your swing, which can lead to golfer's elbow – a strain on forearm muscles.
Don't overswing: Relax and take a nice, easy swing at the ball.
Warm up: Try a brisk walk or set of jumping jacks. Stretch your arms, wrists, forearms, elbows, shoulders, spine and pelvis.
Start slowly: Work up to your desired level of activity.
Strengthen your muscles: Do strength training exercises year-round.
Build endurance: Regular aerobic activity can give you staying power on the course. Try walking, jogging, bicycling or swimming.
Lift and carry clubs carefully: Keep your back straight and use the strength of your legs to carry golf bags and heavy clubs.
Choose proper footwear: Dress for comfort and protection from the elements. Wear golf shoes with short cleats. Long cleats dig into the sod and hold your feet planted as you swing, which may strain your knees and ankles.
– Information provided by Mayo Clinic. For information, visit www.mayoclinic.org.