Research reveals the reason why Rory McIlroy could have a short career


For such a placid game, golf really is a sneaky bastard. It’s not like we’re getting slammed by linebackers or felled by dodgy slide tackles, our injury risks are far more subtle. I’m not scaremongering, but research has found out the reason why so many of us have hip problems and it has to do with an egg.

According to the BBC, almost a fifth of all the players at the 2015 Scottish Hydro Challenge complained of hip pain. That’s an awful lot, given that these are professional players.

Why do so many golfers struggle with hip pain? A study conducted by Warwick University has an explanation for the issue, if not the cure. Researchers at the Russell Group institution have come to an interesting conclusion, which states that some professional golfers have “oddly shaped hip joints.”

After putting 55 elite players into medical MRI scanners, they were surprised to find that many of them had egg-shaped right hips while the left joints were the usual ball-shape. Lead researcher Prof Damian Griffin said that shape mismatch between the egg shaped right hip and the ball shaped left might explain some of the pain reported by the golfers.

Essentially, when a golfer takes a swing at the ball, this will cause both hips to rotate in different directions at different speeds. It’s basically your body moving as two cogs would in a clock. The condition, known as ‘cam rotation’, can reduce movement of the hip. Rory McIlroy’s “extraordinary hip action” might prove damaging in the long term. I think this clip perfectly highlights Rory’s unique swing sequence and the specific hip issue that may result from it.

The big question, of course, is whether this affects every golfer to the same extent. Tiger Woods is the classic example. Popular belief would say his injuries were the result of excessive gym work, when it’s the cumulative result of swinging a golf club for 37 years. His trademark lurch, knee-pop and aggressive shoulder turn have left him with injuries in all the places you would expect.

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Look at the guys who have a long career and you will start to see a series of golf swings that don’t rag the body in such a damaging fashion.

No doubt Rory will do all the correct gym work to strengthen and balance his body. Who knows? Maybe he’ll just get his hip replaced and live in a cryogenic chamber forever. Jokes aside, this area of a golfer’s game is a modern innovation, so perhaps the type of injury that plagued golfers like Seve Ballesteros’ will become increasingly uncommon.

The most interesting outcome of this research was the old nature versus nurture debate. “What remains to be established is whether professional golfers develop these shapes because of the way they are using their hips or whether players with these hip shapes are more likely to become professional.” concluded co-researcher Dr Edward Dickinson.

Don’t worry though, as Dr Andrew Murray argues we’re better off golfing than not at all:

“Overall, we know golf can provide considerable health benefits, with likely improved longevity, and better physical and mental health. But golf puts huge forces through the hips every time a player swings the club.”


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