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Do You Really Have Tight Hamstrings?

By Michael K Butler BA; PTA; CSCS*D; RSCC*D; NMT

After playing 18 holes of golf requiring a forward bending position, you might be uncomfortable at the end of the round – especially if you start the round with tight muscles. Many trainers spend countless hours teaching their golf clients hamstring stretches when they complain of being tight. For many, the tightness will most likely be back tomorrow. This is because your hamstrings actually might not be tight!

For your hamstrings to be truly tight, you would have to sit all day with your pelvis tucked underneath you and your knees bent towards your bottom for long periods of time. So why is it then that so many golfers complain that their hamstrings are tight? What they are actually feeling is one or more of the following:

1. Neural Tension – Just because you feel your hamstrings all the time doesn’t mean it’s the source of a problem that you are having. It’s probably masking something else going on. It can be the sciatic nerve having tension placed on it since it does run right down the middle of your hamstring, or it can be an entrapment of the nerve in the glutes or calf. So trying to stretch a weak structure over and over again can cause more harm than good. If you have tingling in the leg, cramping or severe pressure, consult your doctor.

2. Protective Hamstrings – Since we bend forward all the time playing golf, our pelvic bones are constantly put into a forward tilt; the hamstrings protect the spine from going into too much backward bend. Consequently, they tighten up to protect from a possible spinal condition. We see this more in females than males due to their structural anatomy.

3. Previous Hamstring Injury – Golf can cause a series of hamstring strains, especially the front leg since we end up rotating it with a planted foot. Once you have had a hamstring strain, the feeling of it being tight might last a lifetime unless you get regular massages or ART work. This is because the muscle tissue will never be the same again, due to how the fascia or muscle fibers arrange themselves after the injury. Adhesions or scar tissue can develop, interfering with normal function, which means blood flow will be affected to nourish the tissue as well.

4. You might actually have a hamstring injury! Due to repetitive stress placed on certain fibers of that particular muscle you might have micro tears from day-to-day activity, especially if you play a lot of golf. So getting the hamstring and adjacent muscles stronger might be the key to healing completely and correctly. Slowly building up stress on the tissues and not overloading it at first is very important.

If you are serious about your golf game and are concerned about how tight you are getting after a round, it would be in your best interest to get a golf physical evaluation done by a licensed physical therapist, TPI golf medical professional or competent trainer.

Michael K. Butler is co-owner of Kinetix Health and Performance Center. He is a licensed physical therapist assistant, a certified strength and conditioning coach with the highest distinction honors, a full body active release therapist, and a writer and publisher of over 100 articles, books and magazine contributions. Mike’s new book Par Fore The Course Golf Fitness is now available.

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