The short golf backswing: effects on performance and spinal health implications

J Manipulative Physiol Ther. Nov-Dec 2001;24(9):569-75. doi: 10.1067/mmt.2001.118982.


Background: Full recoil golf swings have been implicated in back pain and injury in golfers. Evidence suggests that a restricted backswing may reduce the potential for injury without compromising performance.

Objective: To examine both golf swing performance and selected muscular actions of the trunk and shoulder during a full recoil swing as compared with a modified short backswing.

Methods: Electromyographic (EMG) recordings were taken bilaterally from the lumbar, external oblique, latissimus dorsi, and right pectoral muscles in 7 golfers during a full recoil swing and a modified short backswing. High-speed videotape was used to measure back swing angle reduction. Clubhead velocity (CHV) and ball-contact accuracy were quantified by using a swing speed indicator and clubface contact tape, respectively.

Results: Shortening of the backswing by 46.5 degrees +/- 24.7 degrees had no effect on stroke accuracy as measured by mean deviation from the target spot on the club (19.0 +/- 7.8 mm vs 19.3 +/- 9.2 mm). CHV was not significantly reduced (33.9 +/- 2.5 m/s vs 31.2 +/- 2.2 m/s). However, EMG root-mean-square was decreased 19% in the right oblique muscle from 750 to 250 ms before impact (P < .05). During the acceleration phase, activation of left lumbar muscle decreased by 12%, whereas activation of right latissimus muscle increased by 21%. Although left lumbar muscle activity during the follow-through increased 14%, there was a substantial (17%) but nonsignificant decrease of activation of trunk muscles (P = .11). There was a general trend toward an increased activation of the shoulder musculature from 250 ms before impact to 500 ms after impact.

Conclusion: These data support the idea that short backswings in golf may reduce trunk muscle activation and possibly reduce back injury and pain without negatively impacting swing accuracy or CHV. However, the short swing increases shoulder muscle activation and may, in turn, promote risk for shoulder injury.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Back / physiology
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Golf / injuries*
  • Golf / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / etiology*
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Shoulder / physiology