The golf swing is an amazing movement, said Seattle physical therapist Samantha MacDonald. It’s a synergistic movement that relies on coordination throughout the entire body to produce the effort necessary to soundly and powerfully strike a ball 1.68 inches in diameter.
“It’s producing significant force from the heels and toes on the ground and transmitting it through the core of your body into the hands and club in a smooth, whip-like motion,” said MacDonald, Medical Level 2 therapist certified by the Titleist Professional Institute. She is also a physical therapist with the Real Rehab Sports + Physical Therapy team.
Such complexity means that at any point, a disruption in this chain of events can occur in the swing either from mobility, strength, or coordination issues. It also means that when you have such disruptions, the causes can be difficult to pinpoint and resolve.
Because of this, MacDonald recently combined her experience as a physical therapist and her training with the Titleist Professional Institute to offer complete golf swing analyses for golfers looking to optimize their personal swing, lower their score and (perhaps most importantly) avoid potential injury.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 131,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms, doctors’ offices and clinics for golf-related injuries.
A golf swing analysis is a thorough process – one that starts when MacDonald talks with the golfer about general areas of concern which may include pain, mobility or strength loss, or a general reduction of swing speed or power.
Next, she takes clients through a series of functional movement assessments used to determine the client’s preferred movement patterns; how joints relate to one another in regards to force production; and how one stabilizes their posture with muscle recruitment and intrinsic balance.
Then, MacDonald videotapes the golfer’s swing. She and the golfer view the footage in slow motion, dissecting key points in the swing sequence, and discussing how movement patterns in the swing (reality vs. optimal) relate back to functional movements off the course.
“It’s important to start by breaking down complicated movement patterns into simple, single tasks,” she said. “The brain can only process so much at one time and everyone brings to the table different levels of body awareness and athletic experience. It is about meeting each client and their learning style where they are at in that moment”
Assessing core strength and movement patterns is MacDonald’s primary focus in a golf swing analysis.
“Key to the swing is the ability to know where your pelvis is and how to control it,” she said. “Core strength is often misunderstood in mainstream rhetoric, If you can learn how to master using your pelvis as a foundation to the rest ofy our movements, you can improve, if not resolve, a lot of swing issues.”
Once the assessments have determined where strength and improvement is needed, MacDonald will teach the golfer a series of drills and activities to do at home or with a personal trainer. If the client is working with a golf instructor, MacDonald likes to involve the instructor in this process, as well.
According to MacDonald, while the ultimate goal of getting a professional golf swing analysis may be to avoid injury and improve one’s performance on the links, the benefits are much broader.
“Understanding the role of the core and how it directs movements translates to every aspect of life: movement at work, home, and recreation,” she said.