2013 U.S. Open: Treating injuries on a championship tour

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PGA golfer Fred Couples has struggled with back problems through his career. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

A lot of people have a dream of being a professional golfer. Most day dream off into the wonderful world of caddies, beautiful courses, lots of money and being able to play a sport you love every day of the week. 

But the part of the day dream that is missing is that it is a job and when it is treated as such, it encounters many of the same stressors of everyday life if not more. 

What people do not see on TV and is not advertised is the not-so-glamorous part of the Tour—the injury trailer. Everyone who has ever swung a club knows that golf is as just as much a mental game as it is physical. So with every little ache and pain golfers report to their therapist because an injury, no matter how small, can throw off the mental game as well as the physical. 

Golfers can be up at 4 a.m. to begin physical therapy depending on their tee time.  And even with getting up at 4 a.m. it is a race against time to feel 100 percent better before teeing off.  Some golfers can spend upwards of two to three hours a day in the trailer receiving care. Warm up and stretching to them does not entail a beer at the bar with their buddies; this could take hours depending on the aches and pains that they are dealing with.

Waking up with kinks in the back is a common injury that is treated among pro golfers. Sometimes it is as easy as some manual therapy and stretching to get the golfer feeling 100 percent again. Other times, it can be a very involved process where we accompany you out on the course and work through it during swings and putts.  Neck pain is also a common pain treated with golfers, especially after traveling. 

The big difference between pros and the rest of us is that they get their aches and pains treated ASAP.  They let no ache or pain go untreated.  This allows the therapist to treat the original injury as opposed to other golfers who wait months to seek treatment and then wind up having to treat compensation injuries.

What does the inside of the trailer look like?  It looks like an average physical therapy clinic sandwiched into a tractor trailer. We have state-of-the-art equipment, but only that which can fit in a trailer along with tables and a desk.  Other than that, it is minimal equipment thrown about a continuous flow of bodies all that enter in an unassuming trailer parked in the back lot somewhere.

When the pros are not on the course, they are working with their trainers, their coaches, their physical therapists and any other people that can possibly help better their game. They go to the ends of the earth to shave one stroke off their game. They train hard daily when they are not in a tournament. In the last decade golf has become focused on fitness and hitting the gym hard in order to have longer drives and more accurate putts. There is constant pressure to work out more, spend more time on the course, and invest more time into training and into perfection of the sport.

Another big portion of a life of a pro is travel. While most people think it is just jet-setting off to exotic locations and beautiful courses it means months at a time on the road; months of being away from family and friends while perfecting your craft; trying to get off of planes and have your body respond at 100 percent. 

There is no faking it through the Monday morning meeting because you feel jet lag. Pros need to be ready to go and play at their top form each time. This is when the trailer visits increase exponentially as everyone prepares for the upcoming events.

I’m sure some of you are reading this and still have the dream of becoming one of the top players on the tour. To be honest, that life is much easier but does not depict the majority of the golfers on the tour.  The players who are not on top struggle to stay on the tour, make enough money to sustain the life they chose and sometimes leave the tour without anyone ever knowing their name. They all sustain injuries and the difference between them and you is they get them treated immediately.  

Dr. Moore worked as a physical therapist on the PGA and LPGA Tours for several years before moving into her current position as owner of Total Performance Physical Therapy in North Wales.


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