Some people may be surprised to hear that rotator cuff injuries are actually common in the sport of golf (yes I called it a sport). Big name PGA pro’s like Martin Kaymer, Jim Furyk, and Andrew “Beef” Johnston have all had to withdraw from major tournaments due to shoulder pain. Both shoulders are very active and useful in the golf swing. A rotator cuff injury can be extremely painful and disruptive to anyone’s swing.
Before we get into the best practices to keep your rotator cuff muscles healthy, let’s get into why the muscles are important in the golf swing. The rotator cuff (or Rotor Cupp according to most) is a group of four muscles that help connect the arm to the shoulder joint. The muscles mechanical job is to rotate the shoulder in, out, and help the deltoid lift the arm away from the body. Their functional job is to actively help keep the arm centered in the shoulder socket. The shoulder joint is a really unstable joint, like a golf ball on a golf tee, and the rotator cuff helps to prevent the shoulder from coming out of the socket with normal movement.
In the golf swing, on top of keeping the shoulder joint intact, the rotator cuff muscles help to transfer all the energy from the trunk rotating into the arms and eventually the golf club/ball. That is really what the golfers reading this care about so let’s get into that with a little more detail.
If you want to hit the golf ball far, which I know all of you do, you have to be able to take all the energy from your body turning and transfer that into the golf club you are holding and then eventually into that little white thing on the ground. To be a little more technical you have to take your hip rotation and transfer that energy through your core into your shoulder rotation. From there you have to transfer that energy through your rotator cuff muscles into your arms. That energy goes from your arms through your hands into the club and then eventually into the golf ball. As you can see there are these junctions that the energy has to go through to get to the next segment with the rotator cuff being one of the most important. The players that hit it the farthest are the best at not only generating power but making sure they don’t lose it at those junction points. If you have a rotator cuff injury then you are going to have a loss of power and also a drop in consistency (because we all don’t suffer with consistency enough).
So how do you keep your shoulders healthy? Here are my go to exercises for keeping the rotator cuff muscles strong and transferring that energy well.
One of the main reasons the rotator cuff tears in the first place is a lack of shoulder turn. Instead of turning with your chest, players end up reaching with their arms which puts extra strain on the rotator cuff muscle group. Try both these thoracic spine rotation stretches to help keep your shoulder turn loose. You may even notice a boost in distance as an added bonus
These exercises are excellent at keeping the rotator cuff muscle group strong. These will help keep the shoulder joints stable and efficient at transferring that energy from the trunk to the arms. You know you have been looking for an excuse to purchase a kettlebell.
These exercises will help keep your shoulders healthy and probably increase the average distance of all your clubs.
For happy shoulders and a better golf game, 'Swing’ into OrthoCore with any questions or to set up a consultation with Ian.