In an article headlined “Golf As a Contact Sport?” doctors from the Barrow Neurological Institute suggested that “repetitive traumatic discopathy” from over 300 swings per golf-playing day may be leading to early lumbar degeneration in modern-era golfers. Back disorders have become the most common injury among professional and amateur golfers, the authors noted.
In an article headlined “Golf As a Contact Sport?” that was recently published in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine, Drs. Corey T. Walker, Juan S. Uribe, and Randall W. Porter from the Barrow Neurological Institute suggested that “repetitive traumatic discopathy“ may be the cause of early lumbar degeneration in modern-era golfers, reported EurekAlert! a briefing published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
“Among professional and amateur golfers, back disorders remain the most common injury, comprising 55% and 35% of injuries in these groups, respectively,” the authors pointed out. And modern professional golfers are experiencing back problems at far younger ages than the general population, they added. To explain this, the authors focused on how the golf swing of present-day professionals like Tiger Woods differs from those employed by golf legends Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan, EurekAlert! reported.
As golf has evolved over the last two decades, the golf swing has become more powerful, and to keep up, modern-era professional golf players participate in intensive strength-training sessions, the Barrow Institute doctors wrote. The techniques of the swing have also changed, and during the downswing, greater compressive force is directed toward the spinal disc and facet joints that affects these structures asymmetrically.
With more than 300 swings per golf-playing day, the golfer repeatedly experiences minor traumatic injuries to the spine, which over time can result in the pathogenic process that the authors termed “repetitive traumatic discopathy,” or RTD, EurekAlert! reported.
To illustrate how this can occur, the authors discussed Woods’ years of debilitating spine pain in their study.
The doctors’ article also discussed modern-day golf swing biomechanics and how they relate to the development of RTD, the trend toward earlier ages of players exhibiting RTD, and the possibility that golfer’s athletic strength training may contribute to RTD, EurekAlert! reported. The article also addressed treatment of patients with this repetitive spinal injury.
“We believe Tiger Woods’ experience with spinal disease highlights a real and under-recognized issue amongst modern era golfers,” Dr. Walker told EurekAlert!. “Repetitive traumatic discopathy results from years of degenerative ‘hits’ or strains on the spine resulting in early onset breakdown, instability, and pain.
“We hope medical practitioners, and surgeons in particular, will be able to diagnose and treat golfers with RTD in a specialized fashion going forward,” Dr. Walker added.
The Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine is one of four monthly journals published by the JNS Publishing Group, the scholarly journal division of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. All four journals can be accessed at www.thejns.org.