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UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Joseph Myers, Ph.D., A.T.C.

Joseph Myers, Ph.D., A.T.C.

Timothy Sell, Ph.D., P.T.

University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Help For Golfers And Cyclists Found In Pitt Research Presented At American College Of Sports Medicine Meeting

DENVER, May 31, 2006 — Help for golfers and cyclists can be found in the results of various research studies conducted at the University of Pittsburgh Neuromuscular Research Laboratory  and presented this week at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Denver. Following are brief summaries of the research findings:

Why separating upper torso and pelvis during golf swing increases driving performance

While the role of the upper torso and pelvis rotation in golf swing velocity and driving performance is anecdotally appreciated by golf instructors, the actual biomechanical relationship between the upper torso and pelvis and driving performance was scientifically shown for the first time in a golf swing analysis of 100 male recreational golfers, conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Neuromuscular Research Laboratory.

Joseph Myers, Ph.D., A.T.C., and his research team used advanced biomechanical assessment tools to measure each golfer’s upper torso rotation and velocity, pelvic rotation and velocity, x-factor (the absolute difference between upper torso and pelvic angles), and x-factor velocity during the golf swing. They also assessed ball velocity and the relationships between ball velocity and all biomechanical variables during the full golf swing. Their measurements showed that the x-factor contributes to increased upper torso rotation velocity and x-factor velocity during the downswing, ultimately contributing to increased ball velocity.

“This study provides golf instructors with evidence to support increasing ball velocity by maximizing separation between the upper torso and pelvis,” reported Dr. Myers.

To help increase golf ball velocity . . . it’s all in the wrist

In a golf swing analysis of 109 male right-handed golfers, the golfers with greater ball velocity and driving distance also had greater wrist-hinge angle and faster wrist-hinge angular velocity during the downswing compared to golfers with slower ball velocity.

Mathematical modeling shows that during the golf swing, wrist-hinge angle and wrist-hinge angular velocity prior to ball impact are important contributors to ball velocity and driving distance. But this had not been established in actual golfers until researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Neuromuscular Research Laboratory conducted this study.

Swing mechanics at various reference points during the swing were assessed using a high-speed eight-camera 3D optical motion analysis system. Although the data showed no differences in wrist-hinge angle and wrist-hinge angular velocity during the top of the swing, there were significant differences during the downswing between the golfers who produced greater ball velocity and those with slower velocity. “This result supports both the mathematical and anecdotal evidence. Furthermore, the timing of wrist-hinge angle release to achieve maximal wrist-hinge angular velocity may be critical for greater ball velocity,” said researcher Timothy Sell, Ph.D., P.T.

Highly proficient golfers show greater consistency in ball flight characteristics

Proficiency in golfers is best measured by consistent ball flight characteristics (BFC), rather than traditional measures of golf performance such as club velocity and total driving distance, according to a study at the University of Pittsburgh Neuromuscular Research Laboratory.

A golf launch monitor was used to evaluate various ball flight characteristics of 90 male golfers, each of whom performed 10 golf swings with their own drivers. For each golfer, the five swings with the greatest total driving distance were calculated. The golfers were separated into three groups based on proficiency and low-, mid- and high-handicap.

“We saw no significant differences among the three groups for ball speed or club velocity consistency, which indicates that all of the golfers generate power with similar consistency. However, significantly more consistent ball flight characteristics were demonstrated in the low-handicap group compared to the mid- and high- groups,” reported Joseph Myers, Ph.D., A.T.C. “This shows that proficient golfers are more consistent in transferring the generated power to the ball, resulting in more consistent ball flight characteristics.”

Individuals with an ACL injury may compensate with their hips

Individuals with injury to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) -- the main stabilizing ligament of the knee joint -- may be unknowingly compensating for their ACL deficiency with increased internal hip rotation, potentially furthering the progression of osteoarthritis, according to a study at the University of Pittsburgh Neuromuscular Research Laboratory.

Ten non-injured subjects and 9 ACL-deficient subjects pedaled on a stationary cycling ergometer at a constant speed with the foot securely attached in a neutral position. Using infrared motion analysis, researchers captured hip, knee and ankle internal/external rotation. They found that the ACL-deficient group had significantly greater hip internal rotation than those of the control group, and the increased hip internal rotation was observed in both the injured limb and the uninjured limb, without any rotational changes at the knee.

“This altered hip motion may be an attempt to minimize lower leg internal rotation, which has been seen in previous studies of ACL-injured individuals. The altered hip motion in both the uninjured and injured limbs suggests a central regulation of the compensatory mechanism due to the deficiency or loss of the ACL and its mechanoreceptors,” said John Abt, Ph.D., A.T.C. “Future studies should focus further on the compensatory mechanism as well as its association with the progression of osteoarthritis.”

Asymmetrical cycling patterns may contribute to overuse injuries

The repetitive motion of cycling requires efficient, symmetrical movement patterns to prevent excessive stresses from being transmitted to the muscles and tendons of the lower extremities, which may be partially responsible for the development of overuse injury, according to John Abt, Ph.D., A.T.C., a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh Neuromuscular Research Laboratory.

In a biomechanical study using a 3D motion analysis system, Dr. Abt’s research team found asymmetrical movement patterns in 31 competitive cyclists who participated in the study. The asymmetrical cycling patterns were found specifically in knee and hip motion that is in the plane of the top tube as it splits the bike into right and left halves. “The differences in hip and knee motion may be related to compensatory adaptations to unequal musculoskeletal characteristics or inappropriate bike fit,” said Dr. Abt. “Prolonged cycling with asymmetrical mechanics may contribute to the development of overuse injury, particularly as it relates to diagnosis of one limb.”

About the University of Pittsburgh Neuromuscular Research Laboratory

The laboratory is housed within the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Sports Performance Complex, in the Center for Sports Medicine. Laboratory faculty includes those from the sports medicine program at the university’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and the orthopaedic surgery department at the university’s School of Medicine.

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