A muscle strain occurs when the fibers that make up the muscle are damaged. The strain can be graded in terms of severity as Grade I, II or III. Grade I is a minor tearing of the muscle fibers. Grade II means there is moderate damage to the muscle fibers, and Grade III means a muscle is completely torn.
- Medial (middle) - Medial muscles include adductor muscle group (inner thigh muscles) and rectus abdominus (6-pack muscles)
- Anterior (front) - Anterior muscles include the hip flexor (iliopsoas)
- Posterior (back) - Posterior muscles include the hamstrings (muscles in the back of the thigh) and external rotators (hip muscles)
- Lateral (side) - Lateral muscles include the gluteus medius and minimus (smaller areas of the gluteal or buttock muscle groups)
Since golf is a sport that requires both explosive power and trunk stabilization, the muscular system is required to control stationary posture and large dynamic movements. Therefore, the severity and location of the muscle injury will determine which part of the swing will be most affected.
If the medial muscle group is involved, the swing will be most affected during the winding and unwinding phases, since these muscles are required to help provide a stable base. If these muscles are not working, a golfer may begin to slide outside of his or her base of support. If the abdominals are involved, one can expect a change at any point during the swing, or during the follow through when this area is being stretched.
If the anterior (front) muscles are involved, there may be a loss of control at impact and possible soreness on the follow through. The hip flexor (iliopsoas) has two roles: stabilization and power. During the follow through, this muscle stretches and possibly works to stabilize the hip, especially if it is prone to a large amount of forward hip movement or there is increased trunk extension.
If the posterior (back) muscles are involved, you may see a tucked position of the pelvis to take the stress off the hamstrings. If the external rotator hip muscles are involved, caution should be utilized during the back swing and downswing. During the backswing they are stretched, and during the downswing they fire and contract to decelerate the leg after impact.
If the lateral muscles are involved, there may be a change in the height of the pelvis as the leg is loaded. If these muscles are weak or injured, it will be very hard for a golfer to maintain a square and level pelvis. If the gluteal group is injured in the back leg during the backswing, the pelvis will shift upward, which can make it difficult for a golfer to initiate the downswing.
Modifications on the Golf Course for Golfers with a Muscle Strain
- Medial (middle) muscle problems
The main modification for golfers with medial muscle problems is to control tempo and not swing as hard. Since the abdominals are engaged throughout the swing, avoiding hard swings should minimize the forces generated at impact and decrease the forces needed to control trunk extension. The adductor (inner thigh) forces will also be decreased by slowing down the tempo to control the rate of winding up during the backswing and unwinding during the follow through.
- Anterior (front) muscle problems
The main modification for anterior muscle problems is to decrease the swing speed. This minimizes the force needed to be generated by the hip flexor for helping to control trunk stability, especially near the impact point. In addition, if the muscle is sore when it is stretched during the follow through, it is recommended that you let the body follow through more as one unit. This should decrease the forces placed on the hip flexor muscle.
- Posterior (back) muscle problems
The main modification for posterior muscle problems is to set up in less of an arched-back position. This will help to take the stress off the hamstrings. In addition, decreasing the speed of the swing will decrease the force produced by the hamstrings as they help to generate hip power at or near impact. You should be cautioned that this more backward position of the pelvis has the potential to put the spinal disc at risk for injury due to the flexion and rotation of the trunk at impact.
- Lateral (side) muscle problems
The main modification for lateral muscle problems entails decreasing the swing path distance to avoid making the gluteal (buttock) muscle group and posterior external rotators of the hip muscles work at or near the end-range positions of a normal swing. The other recommendation is to play with one's feet slightly turned out, for the same reason.