Screening

Finding a Balance

By Valerie Melvin
GSi Editor, St Andrews, UK

Generally our visits to the physiotherapists are in times of need…an excruciating pain that we just need rid of. We never go for a regular check up. However in Australia they have implemented a screening program using video analysis and a graded golf specific functional assessment which allows the physiotherapist to identify risk areas and communicate them directly to both player and his or her coach. For more on this innovative program, read on…

It's refreshing. It's innovative. It's radical. They always said prevention was better than cure. In Australia, a revolutionary physiotherapy screening program is underway with leading golfers, coaches and administrators working together to ensure maximum performance and minimal injury risk.

Ramsay McMaster is a golf specific physiotherapist who over the last 10 years has assessed and treated over 4000 golfers at his Melbourne Golf Injury Clinic and who has developed this program. He lectures to physiotherapists and medical professionals in Asia, Europe and the USA on integrating golf specific profiling and training within physiotherapy organisations. Based in Melbourne, Ramsay has worked closely with Australian Professional and National governing bodies as well as the British PGA, Scottish and English Golf Unions to implement fitness and injury prevention systems within their training.

So what is it all about? What does the program entail? According to Ramsay, the key is the individual specificity.

"The key component of this program is the musculo-skeletal screening of the golfers. We focus on individual physical assessment prior to exercise rather than the generic, recipe based exercise regimes."

The screening itself involves the physiotherapist assessing and analysing the golfers muscle imbalances, peripheral and spinal joint range of movement, balance, co-ordination and static and dynamic postural deviations.

Depending on each individual player, the physiotherapist then prescribes golf specific drills that include stretching, proprioceptive, trunk stabilisation and postural and pilates based exercises. These allow the individual golfer to correct any problems and improve physiologically and technically their golf swing biomechanics.

Communication with the coach is essential. As stated screening information is recorded and presented to the golfer in video format. This allows direct communication between players, coaches and golf administrators. Relevant risk areas and physical anomalies that need to be considered prior to the implementation of any new techniques or changes in the swing are passed on in this process.

The use of video allows ongoing monitoring of the golfer's body. It provides excellent feedback and reinforcement to the golfer who has been doing their exercises as they can clearly see an improvement in posture and muscle balance. Most elite players coming through the system in Australia are very familiar with the use of video because in working with their coach, video analysis is an integral part of their swing development. This common factor allows the results of the physiotherapy screening to be easily communicated, understood and monitored by all concerned.

According to Ramsay, screening affords a number of benefits to the physiotherapist.

"Screening allows the physiotherapist to analyse the kinetic chain of the golfer as a whole. As a result we can gain an understanding of golf swing biomechanics and physical affects on the golfer. Also, screening allows us to appreciate the stresses placed on specific areas of the golfers body, stresses associated with intensive golf practice."

Ramsay also recognises an added benefit to the physiotherapist and the player.

"Identification of risk areas earlier reduces the incidence of injury, allowing the physiotherapist to play a more pro-active role, focusing on performance enhancement rather than injury treatment."

The players must be happy…potentially less injury worries, an improved knowledge of their own physiology, what they have to look out for and if they do get injured, someone who knows their background and is aware of their schedule and commitments.

Peter Lonard, currently competing on the US and European Tours, supports the program that has been put in place in Australia. He follows an exercise regime and feels this increases his motivation.

"After 12 years of traveling around the world playing golf for a living, years of practice were finally catching up with me. I now have specific routines that if I follow will improve my weak points, which in turn will improve my game. My motivation is also increased due to having a more highlighted and specific direction with my fitness routine as a result of the screening process."

So if the players are happy, how do the coaches feel? The general view is that it is a coach driven program with well known Australian coaches such as Steve Bann (coach to Robert Allenby and Stuart Appleby) and Dale Lynch (coach to Aaron Baddley, Greg Chalmers, Craig Spence, Geoff Ogilivie and Steven Allen) using these systems. The late, Ross Herbert, the Head Coach of the highly successful Australian Institute of Sport Golf Program and coach to Jarrod Mosely and Matthew Goggin and James McLean, recognised the importance of screening in athlete development.

"I am fully aware of our responsibilities in educating aspiring athletes of the importance of maintaining and improving their physical condition to increase performance and sustain a long playing career free from injury. In all aspects of the game young athletes must be able to measure their performance to therefore establish a starting point and direction. From a physiological viewpoint we are able to establish this starting point through a most practical musculo-skeletal screening process developed by Ramsay in association with the Australian Institute of Sport, State Institutes and National bodies."

Not only was the concept essential, but the manner in which it was developed and the way in which it was communicated was important, according to Ross.

"This screening has been developed with coach/player input so that it is user friendly and provides an ongoing education for players and coaches alike. This education process is central to our physiological development programs."

Education is the crucial term here and the PGA of Australia are supportive of this screening initiative and indeed, the whole concept of the application of sport sciences to the coaching process. Ian Robilliard, Chief Operations Officer explains:

"The PGA of Australia has witnessed a changing time with the introduction and application of sports science in the development of training and education programs for PGA Professionals. The work of Ramsay McMaster in the area of physiology and more specifically muscle imbalance is very important for the athlete and coach. It provides the PGA Professional with additional tools to make coaching and instruction more complete. It is a pro-active approach that does have obvious and tangible benefits to all concerned."

There is support for the program at grassroots level. Sandy Jamieson, the Assistant Coach of the Victorian Institute of Sport and a club professional based in Melbourne, who spends much time teaching on the driving range, can see the benefit of screening to the service he provides his clients with. So it is not just the "stars" that can access this system in Australia, it is also available to regular club golfers.

"I have found screening to be an essential tool for helping my clients. As well as helping me identify problems caused by muscle tightness and imbalance I find that screening gives me a practical and user friendly program to implement to help fix the problems found. I would recommend that every golfer who is going to undertake lessons should first be screened."

All in all, screening seems to be the way forward in integrating physiotherapy and coaching knowledge to help develop performance and minimise injury risk for players at all levels. Down Under, they seem to be leading the way.

Useful references:

McMaster R- Golf Fitness System CD Rom

McMaster R - Poor Motor Patterns that Cause Injury and Golf Rehabilitation Exercises CD Rom

References available from:

www.golfmed.net
Melbourne Golf Injury Clinic, 1100 Dandenong Road, Carnegie,
VICTORIA 3160 AUSTRALIA


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