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Getting Back in the Swing 

A physical therapist's special techniques help injured golfers get in the game

Men and women tend to fall into two categories: Those who don't golf and those who can't live without it. When an injury takes people in the latter category off the course, the results can be downright depressing. Few things are more pitiful than an injured golfer wistfully driving by his or her favorite driving range or wandering, hangdog, around the house on Sunday afternoons.

  Fortunately, the New Orleans area has the only Titleist Performance Institute (TPI)-certified physical therapist in the region. Dennis Romig, a physical therapist with the Outpatient Rehabilitation Center at East Jefferson General Hospital, received his certification in golf fitness for medical professionals through TPI and has dedicated himself to getting golfers and other injured athletes off the couch and back on the course.

  "I've had some pretty significant success," Romig says of his experiences with TPI techniques, which have been used on a number of golf pros during the last 10 years.

  Romig's approach to treating injured players is threefold. First (and perhaps most important) is the unique diagnostic evaluation. Romig examines patients from head to toe, regardless of the location of their pain. Although it may seem counterintuitive, the injury and pain sometimes result from overcompensation caused by a dysfunction located elsewhere in the body. For example, a patient may complain of lower back pain, but further investigation could reveal that the pain actually is occurring because of an unstable ankle. If the ankle problem goes unaddressed, the lower back pain is likely to recur despite treatment. The TPI program is designed to treat the pain where it presents itself, while also treating its root cause.

  "I had one case in which a patient had been off the (golf) course for over a year because of an injury in his left elbow. In fact, he was about to have surgery," Romig says. "Through the screen, I discovered a restriction in his right hip. He was compensating for problems in his hip by a change in mechanics, resulting in overuse of his opposite elbow. Through soft tissue treatments and exercise, we got him back on the golf course in six weeks, and he avoided surgery."

  After identifying the pain's root cause and secondary sources, Romig treats injured areas manually through joint and soft tissue manipulation. Finally, he prescribes specific exercises to strengthen muscles and improve body mechanics.

  "I sometimes compare the process to fixing a computer," Romig says. "I identify the problem through diagnostic screening. Then I may reset the person with manual joint and soft tissue mobilization techniques. Lastly, we reload through exercise and everything begins to run correctly again."

  These methods work not only to reduce a patient's pain, but also to improve his or her game. Recently, Romig experienced how quickly minor adjustments can have a substantial effect. After a week on the program, a patient increased his driving distance from 200 to 220 yards.

  "I gave him some exercises to start recruiting the right muscles in the right order, and by the end of one weekend, he improved his drive by 20 yards," Romig says. "In addition to addressing his dysfunction and his pain, he got lagniappe — he improved his distance.

  "The difference between an average player and a PGA pro might not be strength. It could be the sequencing of their movements throughout the golf swing," Romig says. "That's what this whole treatment approach addresses: the motor patterns. First we address pain, and then the distance and accuracy can be an added bonus."

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