Part 2 of “What it Takes to Hit a Golf Ball” we will discuss some of the main movements that occur during a swing in the lower extremities. It is important to note that the human body is made up of numerous joints that are caused to move by muscles that are all interconnected through fascial pathways. Restrictions in one joint or muscle will cause compensations in another joint. If these compensations occur in an area causing excessive movement we will have an injury. From the ground up the body is segmented in such a way that we have a very mobile joint, followed by an immobile joint and this pattern continues up to the cervical spine.
To illustrate this further, we will look at the foot and ankle, which is comprised of 33 joints. The foot is very mobile and is capable of a multitude of motions including dorsiflexion (moving ankle up), plantar flexion (ankle moving down), inversion (ankle moving in), eversion (ankle moving out) and a combination of these movements called supination (plantar flexion and inversion) and pronation (Dorsi flexion and eversion). As we move up the chain the foot and ankle complex is followed by the knee joint, which is a relatively immobile joint. The knee’s main action is flexion (Bending) and extension (straightening) and is a simple hinge joint. This is followed by the hip joint, which is a ball and socket joint with an abundance of motion available. The following joint segment is the lumbar spine, which is relatively immobile, and then the mobile thoracic spine.
It was discussed in part 1 that restrictions in joints whether due to soft tissue or bony reasons will cause compensation. This compensation will cause an “energy leak” which will decrease power and/or cause swing discrepancies, which can lead to inaccurate hits, inconsistencies in the swing and injury. There are some main motions and also some smaller accessory motions that must occur for the golf swing to be performed properly and with the least likeliness of injury. However all joints must have the proper movement to allow for an appropriate swing to take place. We will discuss these motions in the following paragraphs.
The swing starts from the ground up and the first joint that must have motion is the foot and ankle complex. As the swing begins and weight starts to shift to the back leg; the foot and ankle go through a variety of motions. The big toe must be able to dorsi-flex or extend, the forefoot has to abduct (move out to the side in relation to the talus bone), the arch should collapse causing the calcaneus to evert and the tibia to internally rotate. This series of reactions are directly related to the glute loading which will give us the power to strike the ball. (See Fig1-Fig4) If one of these motions are compromised the glutes will not be able to maximally load and power will be lost. Then as the weight shifts to the front foot the same motions must occur through this foot.
The next joint up the chain is the knee joint. We have discussed that the knee joint does not have as much available motion as the foot and hip but proper motion here is still important. As the tibia internally rotates on the femur we have transverse plane motion at the knee. If we freeze the back swing we will see that the knee is abducted looking at the distal tibia in relation to the proximal segment in the frontal plane. (This is looking at the distal end of the tibia in relation to the knee joint. (See Fig 4) The knee joint also must be able to flex. So you see even though the knee doesn’t have as much available motion as the foot and hip it still needs to move in all three planes of motion. I also want to note that knee motion and health is heavily reliant of what occurs at the foot and the hip.
Continuing to move up the pathway we find ourselves at the hip joint. As the back swing begins the hip of the back leg goes into relative adduction, flexion and internal rotation. (Fig 4) At this point the glutes are eccentrically loaded and therefore will be able to recoil and generate power. The front hip has to do just the opposite. We must have the motion to externally rotate out of the front hip as the hip moves into external rotation and relative abduction. Those roles reverse as the swing occurs and after contact. The front hip then has to adduct, internally rotate and extend at finish as the back hip externally rotates, abducts and extends. Both hips stay relatively flexed during the back swing and then extend as contact is made and transitions to the follow through.
All these motions must occur to allow the body to naturally swing. These motions are reliant on bony and soft tissue mobility. The bones must be able to move on each other and this is reliant on the flexibility of numerous structures including muscle, tendons, ligaments capsules, bursae, fascia and the actual bones and cartilage. If there is restriction in any of these structures, the swing can be compromised. In part 3 we will discuss the motions that must occur in the spine and upper extremities. Then we will dive into common restrictions seen in golfers and what compensations can occur from this.