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Golf-related injuries can be prevented or fixed
Proper warmup, swing mechanics help to avoid pain

By: RICHARD DEAN, Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle

Golf teaching professional Marty Fleckman spends at least 30 minutes each day stretching. that’s every day, 365 days a year.

“A day doesn’t go by when I don’t do my stretching.” said Fleckman, director of instruction at BlackHorse Golf Club.

Stretching is just one physical activity golfers are encouraged to do in an effort to avoid golf-related injuries to the back, shoulder, elbow arm, and neck. A proper warmup is encouraged. And if a golfer has an existing injury, there is treatment available from doctors, physical therapist and chiropractors. “I am not a doctor, but I would definitely recommend a physical therapist if someone is inured” said Deb Vangellow, LPGA director of instruction at Sweetwater Country Club. “These folks can help with rehabilitation, along with injury prevention.

“A fitness trainer who is knowledgeable about kinesiology and physical conditioning for specific populations and golf would be helpful” Vangellow said. “An LPGA or PGA golf instructor who is student-centered (versus a method teacher) would be both important and beneficial, as we can work with how you are.”

Merle Barziza of Bartann Massage Therapy Clinic treats golf-related injuries. “I don’t look at golfers’ injuries as pain. I look at them as body work” Barziza said. “We stretch them out, rehab them, and after they’ve rehabbed, then we’ll strengthen them.

“We’re body-work people. I look at their body type and I tell them what I see is wrong. If they’re barrel-chested, we show them how to get their shoulders even to make the shots.”

Fleckman, along with Jeff Strong, head golf pro at Eagle Pointe, credit Barziza with Allowing them to play golf with less pain.

Barziza to rescue

Strong’s back and neck problems were so severe that he couldn’t ride in a golf cart because when he put weight on his foot, the pain was too great.

Strong didn’t play golf from Aug. 20 of last year until less than two months ago. When Strong didn’t play in an STPGA sectional and saw Fleckman there, Fleckman told him about Barziza.

“She started stretching me,” Strong said. “Since then, I’ve been rehabbing my back. I started from ground zero. The back feels better; I’m on the right track.

“Each back is different. She knows what your body type is. She works with me on how to address the ball without pain. She does a great job.”

Barziza got Fleckman using a medicine ball, not a standard medicine ball but a little weighted one, and one-legged push-ups to strengthen his back. Fleckman said he feels great.

“I can hit all the balls I want (without pain), I can compete,” said Fleckman, who said he takes a medicine ball with him on out-of-town trips. “I do what she (Barziza) tells me.”

The golf swing itself can cause an injury.

Two-planers the worst

“Most people who are injured are two-plane,” Fleckman said. “Two-plane players are prone to injuries.”

A two-plane swing is more of a vertical swing; a one-plane swing is more circular, more of an arch and not up and down.

But regardless of which plane a golfer uses, a way to beginning a practice session on the driving range is hitting short clubs first. Work your way through your bag, saving the oversized metal woods for last.

“Any practice session with the heavy artillery (long clubs) is a recipe for injury,” said Lynn Parker, head professional at Jersey Meadow Golf Course.

Shoulder injuries come from not warming up prior to playing a round or a practice session.

An improper swing and improper stretching can lead to lower back pain.

A better swing technique learned from a PGA or LPGA teaching professional will help back, wrist, and elbow pain.

“Golfers, prior to playing, should swing at least 24 times, or better yet, have the same amount of ball hits,” said David Praisler, general manager at Oakhurst Golf Club.

Take it easy

“A golfer should warm up for 30 minutes before practicing or playing,” said Roger Stebbins, head professional at Lake Windcrest Golf Club.

Tendinitis in the elbow is a common ailment for golfers.

“To avoid or minimize this type of injury, hit a smaller warm-up bag and work on strengthening your biceps and triceps,” Stebbins said.

As difficult as some holes are on a golf course, it’s also hard at times to prevent injuries. It’s part of the game. But good fundamentals are helpful — such as a good grip, good ball position, and proper alignment.

“All factor into having the best opportunity to hit an acceptable shot and will lessen the likelihood of injury,” Parker said.

richard.dean@chron.com