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  • Writer's pictureLuke Perraton

Jordan Rutherford part 2 – Working with professional golfers for performance and injury management.

This is a summary of Physio Foundations Podcast Episode 58 with Jordan Rutherford. Jordan is a physiotherapist with the Professional Golf Association of Australasia and the director of Launch Health in Melbourne, Australia. Jordan talked about working with professional golfers for performance and injury management and using objective measures such as handheld dynamometers. Enjoy!

Episode summary and highlights

In this episode of the Physio Foundations podcast, Luke continues his conversation with physiotherapist Jordan Rutherford. They delve into Jordan's clinical interests, with a particular focus on golf. Jordan shares his journey from being a basketball enthusiast to becoming passionate about golf, following a transformative experience he had at a major golf tournament in the US. Jordan then discusses his experience working with the Professional Golf Association Tour of Australasia and provides insights into the differences between treating amateur golfers versus professional ones. He highlights the individualistic nature of golf, the unique challenges and superstitions that golfers face, and the precision required in the sport.

Jordan delves into the common injuries experienced by golfers, highlighting the significant thoracic rotation involved in the sport. The key areas prone to overuse injuries in a  right handed golfer are the left hip, the right side of the lower back, and the thoracic spine. Given the sport's demands, golfers usually have a dynamic stretching routine, neuromuscular drills, and a specific lifting program during tournaments.

When asked about the balance between being a golfer and a physiotherapist, Jordan emphasizes the importance of drawing a clear line between himself and golf coaches. While there is some overlap, his main goal is to help players be mobile, strong, and aware of their body movements essential for golfing. He aims to enable them to be easily coached by addressing their physical needs without altering their swing directly. To avoid overstepping into a coach's domain, Jordan ensures his drills and exercises don't directly incorporate golfing actions.

Luke and Jordan discuss the advantages of understanding the physical requirements of golf for injury assessment, diagnosis, and prevention. They emphasize the predictability of golf swing movements and how specific physical characteristics can hint at potential golfing habits, challenges, or strengths.

Jordan highlights his transition into strength and conditioning, starting from rehab and moving to performance optimization. He underscores the importance of providing golfers with the tools they need to become better athletes, emphasizing strength, speed, and body control as critical factors.

Luke and Jordan further touch on the integration of clinical practice with research. They emphasize the benefits of collecting data in clinics to enhance the understanding of specific physical requirements for sports like golf. Jordan mentions a pilot project in which they tested about 30-40 people using standardized tests and correlated these with golf simulator results. This approach could help identify optimal exercise programs for golfers.

The conversation then centres around the benefits of using objective measures, specifically dynamometry, in assessing and rehabilitating patients in a clinical setting. 

Here are the key takeaways:

  1. Importance of Objective Measures: Jordan emphasizes the value of using objective measures to quantify muscle strength. Traditional manual muscle tests, while useful, provide subjective grades and may not accurately quantify the extent of strength deficits.

  2. Translating to Real-World Activities: By understanding physical requirements, such as those needed for a golf swing, clinicians can predict potential injury risks or even performance outcomes.

  3. Moving from Rehabilitation to Performance: Jordan's interest lies not just in rehabilitating injuries but also in enhancing performance. By combining physiotherapy and strength conditioning, he can guide patients from injury recovery to peak performance.

  4. Use of Dynamometry in Clinics: With the advancement of technology, devices like handheld dynamometers and force plates have become more accessible in clinics. These devices provide objective data that can guide treatment decisions.

  5. Data-Driven Decisions: Objective data aids clinical reasoning. Instead of relying on generalizations (e.g., "everyone has weak glutes"), clinicians can base decisions on actual measurements.

  6. Patient Buy-in and Education: Providing patients with measurable data can increase their engagement in the rehabilitation process. They can see their progress quantified, which can be motivating.

  7. Quality over Equipment: The conversation highlights that it's not about the brand or cost of the equipment but rather the proper setup, standardization, and execution of the test. A well-executed test with a basic device can provide more reliable data than a poorly executed test with expensive equipment.

  8. Emphasis on Test Setup and Standardization: Luke underscores the importance of ensuring a proper test setup, which should be consistent whether using manual muscle testing or dynamometry. The setup, instructions, and procedure significantly influence the reliability of the data collected.

In summary, while traditional manual muscle testing has its value, integrating objective measures like dynamometry can offer a more comprehensive and quantifiable assessment of a patient's muscle strength and function. This objective data can then inform and enhance the rehabilitation process, ultimately benefiting both the clinician and the patient.

The discussion concludes with an emphasis on the importance of patient rapport and individualized treatment approaches.

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