Spine injuries, particularly those to the lower back, are extremely common among golfers. Surveys reveal that the lower back is the most common area of injury among male PGA golfers, and the second most common injury site among female professionals. One survey of Japanese professional golfers revealed that more than 50 percent reported a history of low back pain that forced them to skip tour events or kept them from competing effectively.

Amateur golfers also list the lower back as their most frequent problem area.

Why so much back pain during golf? The answer probably lies in the significant stresses that the golf swing places on the muscles, ligaments, bones, and all-important discs in the spine—particularly the lower (lumbar) spine.

During a golf swing, the discs and other components of the spine are subjected to tremendous stresses, including:
  • Compression
  • Rotation (twisting, torsion)
  • Shear
  • Bending
While the golf swing is tough on the back for all golfers, it is particularly stressful and demanding for the recreational player. Using muscle activity measurements, video swing analysis, and computer modeling, research studies have revealed some fascinating differences between pro and amateur golfers:
  • The peak shear and bending stresses on the lumbar spine during the golf swing were found to be 80 percent greater in amateurs than professional golfers
  • Rotational stresses were also found to be substantially greater for recreational golfers compared to professional golfers
  • While professional golfers exhibited a spinal/trunk muscle activity of 80 percent of their maximum during their swings, the amateurs reached nearly 90 percent of their maximum
  • In amateurs, the muscular firing pattern was imprecise, but in the tested professionals the firing pattern reflected a discrete on-and-off profile
Researchers believe that the superior conditioning and the efficient "grooved" swing exhibited by the professional golfer allows them to hit the ball harder, farther, and straighter than the amateur while using less muscle capacity and generating less stress on the lower back.

You might be wondering why professional golfers, in spite of their superior conditioning and swing technique, still manage to hurt their backs so frequently. The answer is probably in the high number of times that they swing the club each week due to their demanding practice and competition schedules.


Sugaya H, Tsuchiya A: Low Back Injury in Elite Professional Golfers: An Epidemiologic and Radiographic Study. In Farrally M, Cochran A (eds.): Science and Golf III: Proceedings of the World Scientific Congress of Golf. Champaign, Ill,: Human Kinetics, 1999.

Hosea T, Gatt C: Back Pain in Golf. Clinics in Sports Medicine 15(1): 37-53, 1996

Hosea T, Gatt C, Gertner E: Biomechanical Analysis of the Golfer’s Back. In Stover CN, McCarroll JR, Mallon WL (eds.): Feeling Up to Par: Medicine from Tee to Green. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis, 1994.