The number of golfers in the United States is expected to climb to 27 million this year. Despite the popularity of the sport, the country’s golfing population remains an untapped source of income for many chiropractors. If you follow some simple advice, this could be the year you break into the billion-dollar golf industry.
The most recent available data indicate that less than 2% of golfers choose to visit a chiropractor. This statistic is somewhat shocking, considering that back pain is such a common problem among golfers. Meanwhile, it was reported that physical therapists see a whopping 39% of golfers.
This is not to say that chiropractors do not treat golfers. In fact, some chiropractors treat golfers exclusively. But that is the exception rather than the rule.
Let’s consider the golfing population for a moment. They are plagued with head pain, cervicothoracic pain, shoulder pain and low back pain. They are predisposed to suffer from these problems due to the demands of the golf swing and sometimes because of poor lifestyle habits.
Doesn’t this seem like an ideal patient population for chiropractors? While chiropractors are the likely professionals to help golfers with their problems, DCs are not mentioned in golf publications as the doctors of choice for pain reduction, rehabilitation, and advice about lifestyle modifications such as nutrition and exercise. Most of the publications advocate physical therapists and personal trainers, but not chiropractors.
Breaking Into the Golf Market
From a national and state perspective, one of the best ways to position chiropractors as the doctors of choice for golfers would be to place highly visible ads in national and state golfing journals. However, this proposition would be complex from a logistical and financial standpoint. It may take awhile before the chiropractic profession as a whole is ready for something like that.
Probably the easiest way to involve state associations would be to create a presence at the various professional tournaments each year. Chiropractors interested in breaking into the golf industry could volunteer at various tournaments. Last year, a group from the University of Bridgeport volunteered at a Professional Golf Association (PGA) event in Hartford, Conn.
The best way to market your private practice to golfers is to offer regular lectures in your community about back pain and golf, nutrition for the golfer, exercise for the golfer and similar topics. The easiest way to speak on any subject is to let either slides or overheads guide your presentation. That way you won’t forget anything or get stuck in the middle of a transition from one subject to another. If need be, first do talks in your office, and then hit the streets. Go speak at golf courses, corporations, community groups, the local fire station, etc. The list is almost endless.
Due to the availability of slide-making computer programs, you can create your own presentation fairly easily. Obviously, word slides are the easiest to make. It takes a bit more time and ingenuity to create slides with artwork or pictures. You can set up your slides in the comfort of your office or home, and e-mail the files to a slide-making company.
Ideal Lecture Topics
The best subject to focus on in your lectures is golf, not chiropractic. People want practical advice about golf, back pain, exercise and nutrition – not a sales pitch about why they should come to your office. Of course, it helps if you know a little about golf, so make sure to do your homework first.
The mechanics of the golf swing can create injury-promoting forces within the low back. Of course, most people are not going to stop playing, so the goal is to focus on what golfers can do to minimize low back stress. For example, during the golf swing, avoid twisting the spine, as illustrated in Figure 1 (page 36). A common recommendation given by golf pros is to twist the spine like a corkscrew during the backswing. The visual image provided involves swinging like you are in a barrel. Instead, urge people to swing like their torso is a barrel, and reduce spinal torsion to an absolute minimum.
Along with reducing torsion, you should advise golfers to reduce the length of their backswing. Some may argue they won’t be able to hit the ball as far and other similar excuses. When you hear these types of objections, simply pop up a slide with a list of notable pros with short backswings (Figure 2, page 36). Additionally, research published as early as 1970 indicated that a golfer can shorten the backswing and not lose clubhead speed at ball impact. Elastic energy is the probable source of club head speed, and a long backswing is not required to create significant elastic energy.
You can also talk about safe exercises for the back. Most golfers think they should do all kinds of spinal twisting exercises and generally make their spines as flexible and mobile as possible. Wrong move. In fact, research suggests that greater spinal mobility may actually make the spine more susceptible to injury.
Spinal flexibility exercises should be limited to unloaded flexion and extension movements (Figure 3, page 38), according to Stuart McGill, Ph.D, a noted spine researcher from Ontario, Canada. The “cat stretch” involves cycling the spine from full spine flexion to extension, focusing on mobility and not pressing at the end range of movement. At your lectures, ask audience members to get on the floor and take everyone through the motion. Most people’s backs will feel a little better, and sometimes a great deal better, after going through 10 flexion/extension cycles.
You can then go through three other exercises that have been studied extensively to make sure the compression penalty to the spine is reasonable.You can use these same exercises in treating the golfers you see as patients.
Curl-ups primarily challenge the rectus abdominis (Figure 4, page 38). The goal in this exercise is to make sure the abdominal muscles raise the torso off the floor, only to the point where the scapula come off the floor. The movement should be performed at a slow enough pace to discourage the use of momentum to raise the torso.
In addition to curl-ups, it is important to teach your golfers/patients how to do an abdominal brace, which engages the deeper muscles, particularly the transverse abdominis. The abdominal brace is performed by contracting the abs so that the umbilicus moves back toward the spine, i.e., the tummy flattens. It is best to perform an abdominal brace during the remaining exercises.
The horizontal side support may be one of the most important exercises to perform for all patients, and particularly for golfers. It challenges the oblique abdominals and the quadratus lumborum (QL). In fact, the QL may be the most important muscle for stabilizing the lumbar spine. Figure 5 (page 38) illustrates the position that should be held for about five seconds. Then have the patient relax for a few seconds and repeat, making sure to do both sides. There is no set number of repetitions; it depends on the exercise goal of the patient.
Back extensor exercises are extremely important, and the most neglected by those who exercise. It is known that spinal muscles become deconditioned and predispose the spine to injury. So it is crucial that golfers exercise the back extensors. Figure 6 (page 38) illustrates the progression of exercises. As the golfer moves to the position of extension with an arm and leg, the associated compression penalty rises. Obviously, many people should initially raise only the leg.
The main goal of your lectures should be to get your audience members to like you and believe you can effectively treat their spines. It is also important to make sure people feel a little better physically after your talk, and many people will feel better after doing the cat stretch. This way people will go home knowing you can help them.
If you take this approach to market yourself to the golfing community in your area, you will begin to fill your office with golfers. You’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.