April 30, 2013

The Golf Ball Doesn’t Lie – Practice makes Perfect

By James Finley
Performance Physical Therapy

When you go to golf coaches, your hope is to get some simple, straight forward answers on how to improve your golf swing.

Tina Howell, Fellowship trained in Physical Therapy, doesn’t give straight forward answers. She is among the most technical and science-oriented “coaches” in golf, focusing on body mechanics. She will throw around phrases like “correct the thoracic tilt” and “functional postural corrections.” The clarity may not be there, but the results are.

When asked to what she attributes her success, Mrs. Howell gave me a one-word answer: “Myelin.” Excuse me? “That’s the insulation that wraps around neural brain circuits and helps them to fire faster when presented with certain stimuli.” It follows the same timeless logic of practice makes perfect: the more you do something, the better you become at it. In this case, the more you perform your task, the stronger the link between your brain and the physical performance of the task becomes. Frequent use helps the myelin perform its job better. This helps secure new skills. “‘Swing change’ is really an odd term, because it’s actually brain patterns,” says Howell.

As a “brain changer,” Howell is thoughtful, curious, and takes the long view of improvement. She provides only two drills to do in the first five months. They are aimed at helping your back by getting you to turn your pelvis more through impact.

Many golfers have terrible back problems resulting from the way they have been taught to swing, so addressing that is the first order of business. “The pain response is omnipotent; it can affect and change everything else in a swing without a player knowing it,” Howell said. Once this is achieved, the end goal still relates to that post impact pelvic turn. Often, external rotation of the left hip is involved. Until this improves significantly, the post impact is not worth working on. This is just one example of how understanding the mechanics of the body, and how it should work in efficient states, allows Tina and her staff at Performance Physical Therapy to break down the different components of golf.

For more information on this or to obtain help with your golf swing, contact Performance Physical Therapy at (563) 332-0585.