It’s Good for Your Game

It’s Good for Your Game
by Dr. T. J. Tomasi
Keiser University College of Golf Senior Faculty and Director of Research

TJ Tomasi

According to many historians, King Richard III of England not only had a deformed personality (Shakespeare described him as a monster) but also a deformed body caused by severe scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine that made it difficult for him to swing a broad sword in battle while riding a horse.

Today you don’t have to worry about swinging a broad sword, but scoliosis can affect your ability to swing a golf club.

And it’s more common than you might think – of every 1,000 children, five develop spinal curves that are severe enough to need treatment.

Many golfers don’t even know they have it, but I always check at the beginning of the first lesson.

I look from behind to determine if there is an abnormal curvature.

Signs of scoliosis may include:

  • Uneven shoulders
  • One shoulder blade that appears more prominent than the other
  • One hip higher than the other
  • Leaning to one side
TJ Scoliosis Article photo

The correct shoulder action can be disrupted by scoliosis. This player has a mild spine curve away from the target that drops his back shoulder too low coming to the ball. Thus, he runs the risk of hitting it fat. I’m giving him the feel of a more level shoulder action to guard against too low a shoulder at impact.

If the curve of the spine tilts the right-handed player to the right, the tendency is to set up with too much weight on the right side.

Major problems include hitting the ball fat and an inability to transfer weight correctly.

Hitting the ball fat in turn causes the player to straighten up through impact in order to prevent hitting the ground, and this causes a thinned shot.

If your spine curves away from the target, here is the adjustment: your front shoulder needs to be lower with the back hip slightly closed.

If you have trouble transferring your weight, move the ball back an inch or two in your stance and keep more weight on your front leg as you swing.

If the curvature of the spine is the opposite so that the upper part of the body is angled toward the target, then everything is just reversed

Pros have it too

Tour players Karrie Webb, Ken Duke and Dudley Hart have scoliosis, as does Stacy Lewis; so simply having it doesn’t mean you can’t play great golf.

Lewis wore a brace for seven years until she finally had a successful operation.

Since joining the LPGA Tour in 2009, she has become one of the best players in the world, a startling accomplishment considering that a few years ago she couldn’t lift a five pound weight.

Stacy’s coach Joe Hallett is a good friend of mine and he’s told me about her successful battle with scoliosis

A good golf instructor never plays doctor, but they do know enough to ask their student if they have any scoliosis, then observe to see for themselves. If you think you see an out-of-line posture, suggest to your student that a doctor take a look.

The Doctor Says

To play good golf with scoliosis, you have to have a well-designed workout program.

Dr. Robert Donatelli, National Director of Sports Specific Rehabilitation and Performance Enhancement Programs in Las Vegas says “The number one physical issue for golfers is lower back pain.

Most golfers I’ve looked at have had problems with that part of their bodies, and in most cases it is an issue of lower trunk and hip strength and endurance.

The entire golf swing is stabilized by the trunk, pelvis and hip areas, and if the muscles there are strong enough, they can take a lot of pressure off of the spine, which often does not do well with all the rotations that come with a golf swing.”

Golfers with scoliosis should follow a regular workout regimen, and Donatelli recommends that all golfers do the same.

“Muscles are like our shock absorbers,” Donatelli says. ” They control the amount of movement the bones like the spine make in order to prevent damage.”