Treats Back Problems Seriously, Carefully
Lizette Salas has reached the fourth round of the Wegmans LPGA, and is still able to get up in the morning to go out and play golf. In fact, two of her last three rounds have been pretty good, all things considered. A short time ago, she bent to pick the ball out of the hole, and felt a suspicious pop. While looking forward to last week’s tournament, she watched as Tiger Woods imploded in mid-round, and decided to wait until this week to come back – good plan.
I had a friend who was told in mid-lesson, without the club, to lean to the right and pick up the left foot, just an inch or two. Of course, she wasn’t going to play golf like that, but she was amazed at how great it felt. As it turned out, her left leg was shorter than her right, and her left side was weaker than the other.
Salas describes the same phenomenon – the left side is weaker than the right – not uncommon, I’m told, in a number of physically demanding professions. None of us are truly symmetrical, and a lot of inner workings, big and little, are in there chugging away at imaginative compensations for whatever isn’t level or equally strong within us.
In Tiger’s case, we’re talking about a testosteronic athlete who probably doesn’t want to hear anything about gentle, non-aggressive adjustments, fitting the swing into the body’s natural condition, etc. He wants his old back…back, the one he used to win with all the time. He probably wouldn’t be interested in Pilates exercises – but Lizette is banking on them.
The first thing she came to understand was that the inequality between the two sides will always be there, through her whole career. She also gets the fact that these exercises, forms created by Joseph Pilates, serve as a temporary antidote at best, not a final cure.
As described in the various commentaries on Pilates exercises, the six principles are trumpeted over everything else – “centering, concentration, control, breath, and flow.” Pilates are done by everyone from athletes to geriatric cases, and it is said that the forms can be modified for the benefits of almost every type. The secret to the whole approach lies not in the appendages, but in the core strength, those deep, central, big muscles that govern the strength of the torso, and cause all else to follow suit. The overall goal is stabilization, and is done without grunting and panting through an endless series of reps, wrestling with large heavy objects, or watching miles of countryside or pool lengths go by at an awesome clip.
Reading Lizette’s description of her own sensations, I’ve got to wonder how she has played so much good golf through the years thus far, with this being the physical reality for her. Her prognosis and hopes are equally impressive – that she is able to play well and consistently despite the condition through the coming years, with these soothing and restorative exercises. Regardless, her general attitude toward the condition seems to have one up on Tiger, who has been hitting the ball now for many years with a rare degree of torque, and probably all manner of mayhem going on in that back. Coming back to the competition too early is not in the plans for Salas, despite her great love for it, nor is panic setting in – and so far, she’s not clutching herself in pain, or quitting by the turn into the back nine. Does Tiger know about this, do you think?