TL 14

Tom LaFountain

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While working in the PGA Performance trailers this week in Pebble Beach I am always taken in by how beautiful the golf course is. Walking the ocean holes and playing golf provide scenery that is truly unforgettable. As the PGA golfers began to come in to the PGA performance trailers, I am reminded that even though it is Pebble Beach, course geography also affects body function. Visual pleasures aside, Pebble Beach is considered a hilly course by the players. 

Professional golfers must focus on so many things at a tournament. Technical skills, course management, wind, greens, not to mention playing on three different courses this week - Spyglass, Monterey, and Pebble Beach. 

On the first couple of days of their practice rounds at Pebble Beach a few PGA golfers came in with shin splints: achiness and dull pain in the front of their lower legs that progressively worsened as they played. Pebble Beach is hilly and the golfers are subject to uphill, downhill and sidehill lies all day. If they happen to be wearing a new pair of golf shoes, stress levels in the lower legs can get out of hand.  

Pebble Beach is early in the season and injuries at this time of the year are to be avoided at all costs. The last thing a golfer needs is to have a lower leg injury and have to walk approximately five miles each day for 5-6 days on uneven terrain.

A detailed assessment therefore is performed to determine that the lower anterior leg pain is a primary injury site and not an accommodation for another body dysfunction. Most commonly the tibialis anterior is involved, but pain may also be from the tibialis posterior. Besides shin splints, hilly courses often can cause strained calf muscles and achilles tendonitis. Early treatment utilizing any of the advanced soft tissue techniques available with gentle stretching, joint mobilization of the tarsal or metatarsal bones, muscle activation, taping and ice provides an efficient means of alleviating the golfer’s symptoms within a day or two. Also, reassessing their golf shoes for foot support is significant.

Alleviating symptoms as soon as possible is very important since most will play through the pain otherwise. With big money at stake weekly, missing an event is costly. Playing through the pain of shin splints will require the golfer’s hips to tighten for enhanced stability thus compromising their mobility. The golfer will take on a gait pattern with the torso being flexed to try to walk “softer” and take pressure off their legs. These accommodations will eventually lead to further lower back, hip and foot symptoms. Therefore it is extremely important to establish an accurate diagnosis and implement an effective treatment regime.

PGA golfers and amateur golfers alike play on some of the most beautiful and challenging courses available to any golfer. Golfers however must remember to consider the terrain of the course and prepare for it. Do not allow yourself to be in the position of hobbling around the back nine of a round you have been anxious to play. To help you, there are lower leg stretching exercises available in the exercise protocol of this website. Do them regularly a few days before golfing on a hilly course. A little preparation will go a long ways in allowing you to fully enjoy your expectations of a great golf experience.

Moral of the story: 1. Many golf courses will offer a great challenge in beautiful surroundings. Be aware of where you will be playing and the demands that you will face. 2. Never wear a new pair of golf shoes for the first time at an event. Break them in beforehand.


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