Golfers Can Fight Back Against Back Pain

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Ben Shear, trainer to PGA Tour stars and Director of Performance at Golf & Body NYC, explains how weekend golfers can take better care of their backs.

Ben Shear, Director of Performance at Golf & Body NYC

What’s the most punishing hazard in golf? A bad back. No bunker, pond, or lightning-fast green has hurt so many golfers. Last week, more than half a dozen tour pros — including fan favorites Fred Couples, Jay Haas, and Craig Stadler — had to withdraw from the U.S. Senior Open Championship due to back issues, just like weekend golfers who are limited by balky backs.

There different reasons why golfers have bad backs.

According to Ben Shear, Director of Performance at New York City’s Golf & Body and trainer to a number of PGA Tour stars, the pros suffer from hitting so many balls for so many years. “The speed they generate and the millions of balls they hit, and swinging in only one direction, throughout their lifetime takes a toll,” he said. “Three or four hours of exercise a week is not going to undo years and years of overuse.”

But amateur golfers, says Shear, have a different set of issues.

“The biggest problem amateurs have is sitting too much—behind a desk, in the car, in front of a computer,” Shear said. “Sitting and standing in a rounded position, hunched forward, constantly stretching and putting pressure on the muscles in our back, shoulders, and hips.”

The next problem is that many casual golfers take those rounded shoulders and weak hip flexors to a golf lesson or to the course and – without doing any stretches – start swinging.

“That locked upper back and those weak, tight hips can’t turn,” Shear says. “What’s caught between them? The lower back. It takes the brunt of all that turning and torqueing. That’s enormous pressure on one part of the body and it’s going to give.”

Shear has a two-part solution to the problem:
1.    Get a physical assessment from a trainer or therapist who understands golf.
2.    Find a golf pro who teaches only the moves that the body is capable of making.

Combining physical training and golf instruction is the mission of Golf & Body NYC, where the therapists, trainers, and golf pros work together for the golfer’s greatest good both on and off the course.

“The golfer’s whole body is assessed,” explains Shear, “looking for limitations and other concerns. There is a great team of golf instructors here, who don’t try to teach something that a student can’t do.”

In the spirit of the British Open, which tees off at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in northwest England this week, Shear offers some advice for golfers making the trip of a lifetime to play in Scotland, Ireland, and elsewhere in Britain where it is often cold and damp.

“Warm up before playing,” he emphasizes. “The blood needs to get flowing and to increase the core body temperature. Stretch, do some basic activation exercises, spend a few minutes first on an exercise bike or treadmill. It’s absolutely critical to get the blood flowing before teeing it up when it’s cool and wet.”

For more information about Golf & Body NYC and its fitness programs for golfers, call (212) 244-2626 or visit

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Karen Moraghan
since: 08/2009
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