October 1, 2008 Effective golf swings require a stable base, which podiatrists say is difficult to establish when a golfer's feet have sustained injuries. When golfers' feet hurt, they cannot properly brace them. Golfers may alter their swings to compensate for pain, making it almost impossible to hit the ball straight. The major causes of foot pain for golfers include neuromas, arthritis of the foot and ankle, and falling arches.
Golfers losing on the course now have a new -- and real -- excuse for a poor game. Experts say foot pain can get in the way of your performance on the course.
Vince Tawney loves golf -- but when pain in his foot became severe, he had to give up his favorite sport. "I actually paid for the tournaments and had to back out," says Tawney.
Foot pain in golfers is not uncommon, but most players don't realize the pain hurts their game.
"Usually, the patient comes in complaining of pain in their foot, but they don't really notice that they're golf swing is off," says Scott Woodburn, D.P.M., a foot and ankle surgeon at Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Baltimore, Md.
Now, surgeons like Dr. Woodburn say there are three common areas of the foot most likely to ruin a golf swing -- causing players to hit way off course.
"Most people know a disruptive follow-through causes the ball to go one way or another, instead of straight," Dr. Woodburn says.
Arthritis causes pain in the joint of the big toe, making it hard to follow through on a swing. A falling arch causes an unstable foot, making a firm stance wobbly during a swing. Neuromas -- another game-ruining problem -- are thick nerves in the ball of the foot that cause pain as weight is shifted from one foot to another during a swing.
"Most of the time, these problems can be corrected with conservative care -- conservative care being cortisone injections, paddings, shoe accommodations, arch supports, physical therapy, [and] ice," Dr. Woodburn says.
Vinceýs problem was in his big toe, but a simple procedure smoothed over a bump of bone causing the pain. After that, Vince got his swing back -- pain-free.
"To come back and play it better, is what it's all about," Tawney says.
PROPER SWING TECHNIQUE: A golfer can improve the distance the ball travels by using correct technique. At the back of the swing, a golfer should reach as far back as possible for the greatest range of motion, while keeping his rotating torso centered over his right leg (for right-handed players). As the golfer swings, his body creates a torque (rotating force) on the club. As the club accelerates through the swing, it gains energy. The more tightly he controls his motion, the less energy a golfer wastes, and the more energy he transfers to the golf ball upon impact. When the club hits the ball, the golfer should drive through the swing to ensure maximum transfer of energy.
ABOUT FRACTURES: A fractured bone is the same thing as a broken bone. They occur because a bone area is unable to support the energy placed on it. That energy can be acute, as from a car crash or a two-story fall, or chronic due to low-energy repetitive activity. The latter is responsible for stress fractures, an overuse injury commonly seen in athletes. The increased demand places on the bone causes it to remodel and become stronger in areas of higher stress, but if the repetitive demands become too great, a stress fracture can result.
Editor's Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.