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  • Writer's pictureBrian Leimkuhler, PT, DPT

Swing Into Spring Sports

Although it’s debatable, I believe the two hardest sports to play are golf and baseball respectively. I also believe that proper body mechanics in these sports directly correlate to both recreational activities and everyday life. “Sports science” has exploded in popularity in recent years, causing buzz words such as: torque, high-intensity training, ground reaction force and proper sequencing to become common lingo among coaches in the weight room and on social media. The longest drivers in golf or the hardest hitters in baseball aren’t necessarily the biggest guys or girls in the gym anymore. The great equalizer has become good body mechanics and working smarter, not harder.

Efficient biomechanics don’t just improve performance, but they also reduce the risk of injury. Many of the sports injuries I’ve treated are easily preventable. This especially holds true in baseball and golf, where repetition and consistency are key, “overpowering” brute force. Utilizing our bodies correctly allows us to take advantage of our muscles within the surrounding environment, without adding additional bodily stress.

The most common baseball ailments I treat are injuries to the throwing-side elbow. Baseball requires a considerable amount of mobility in the throwing arm, which creates higher stability demands. If the proper muscles aren’t utilized, the body will find SOMETHING to create that stability. For most, it is the infamous UCL which is repaired via Tommy John surgery. Many youth players coming into the clinic with elbow pain can immediately reduce symptoms by learning proper mechanics and muscle engagement. In fact, by the end of most initial evaluations, we have baseball players throwing with dramatically reduced pain levels. 

Similar principles can be applied to golfers as well. The most common complaint for recreational golfers is low back pain. These cases are often due to a lack of mobility and strength in the hips. Most recreational golfers have limited movement and flexibility in their hips, which forces them to stress their lower back. This is especially common in “armchair golfers,” who analyze the mechanics of the professionals and try to mimic those positions and movements. Proper sequencing of body movements will not just improve health, but also improve the quality of play. I have learned from my own experience that using larger muscles to control movement greatly improves distance and consistency. My mantra to most golfers is: you should be able to hit the ball 300 yards without feeling like you actually did.

I have completed the prestigious Titleist Performance Institute’s Level 1 and 2 courses for golfers. These seminars instruct proper movement screens for golfers, while helping to discern mobility and stability limitations. Even though this program is geared towards golfers, the screen correlates perfectly to baseball players as well. In fact, the owners of TPI have since begun a baseball specific institute called OnBaseU. In physical therapy, patients can learn a lot about their swing mechanics, their physical limitations and muscle imbalances to improve their performance. Come in now to Lynch Physical Therapy to get evaluated before the upcoming golf and baseball seasons! 

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