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Opinion & Analysis

Are golfers wasting their time icing injuries?

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Even in a world of “doctors used to say it was good for you, now they say it’s bad,” this one is a shocker: The doctor who coined the acronym RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) in 1978 has decided that the (complete) rest and ice are not beneficial to treating injuries.

Dr. Gabe Mirkin, whose RICE treatment plan has been the standard method of dealing with sports injuries for more than 30 years, recently published a blog post that says, in part:

When I wrote my best-selling Sportsmedicine Book in 1978, I coined the term RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) for the treatment of athletic injuries … Ice has been a standard treatment for injuries and sore muscles because it helps to relieve pain caused by injured tissue. Coaches have used my “RICE” guideline for decades, but now it appears that both ice and complete rest may delay healing, instead of helping.

You can read the entirety of Dr. Mirkin’s post here.

This information is significant and could represent a paradigm shift in the treatment of sports injuries in general and golf-related injuries in particular. Simply, reducing inflammation was previously seen as essential to healing. Now Dr. Mirkin and others view inflammation as vital to the healing process. Certainly, there is a gross parallel here with allowing your body to fight off infection vs. antibiotic overkill. As I am not a doctor, however, I’ll leave it at that.

Returning to the matter at hand, as anti-icing advocate Josh Stone of Stone Athletic Management writes: “A shift in paradigmatic treatment is on the horizon. Exercise is heating up and ice is melting down.” By “exercise,” it seems, Stone means load bearing and rehabilitation (alternated with rest) is the advisable course of action. In another post on his website, Stone gives the example of an athlete with a stress fracture to the leg whose been advised to wear a non-weight bearing boot. Stone’s remedy? “An intricate balance between rest and mechanical loading of bone to obtain optimal healing”

In keeping with this idea: Generally, Dr. Mirkin’s advice following injury is as follows:

  • Stop exercising immediately.
  • If possible, elevate the injured part to use gravity to help minimize swelling.
  • If the injury is limited to muscles or other soft tissue, a doctor, trainer or coach may apply a compression bandage.
  • Ice may be applied to reduce pain, however, it’s pointless to apply ice more than 6 hours after injury.
  • If the injury is severe, follow your doctor’s advice on rehabilitation.
  • If the injury is minor, you can usually begin rehabilitation the next day.

The entirety of the new direction of treatment following Dr. Mirkin’s study may only be apparent only to the most progressive doctors, kinesiologists, trainers and exercise physiologists. It is clear, however, that if Mirkin’s current suggestions catch on in the same way as his directions in 1978 did, your rehab and treatment for injury (golf or otherwise) won’t involve anything that lives in the freezer.

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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. leftright

    Apr 30, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    Icing an injury, especially an acute tendonitis, mild muscle injury or a joint that has been over extended works quite well. I have been observing results for 4 decades and despite the good doctor’s turn around it is still preferable to doing nothing at all. I can even say, observable results from non-iced to iced injuries will take longer to heal and can actually cause chronic conditions. Instead of RICE, maybe another acronym like NIE would be better, NSAIDS, Ice and elevation. Compression usually does not work and if done incorrectly will cause more injury and swelling. ACE wraps are more for mild immobilization than compression anyway. To do away with ice in a sports environment, especially at a higher level of play is tantamount to negligence and assuredly will cause exacerbation of conditions in the long term. This article reminds me of the “Sugar Blues” book that came out in the 70’s that ended up not being worth the paper it was printed on.

    • Dean ATC

      Apr 30, 2014 at 11:34 pm

      There are so many things wrong with this post….I don’t even know where to start. So I’ll do it this way…

      1. Compression DOES work; and it’s even more effective when used with exercise

      2. Compression will NOT cause more injury and swelling (seriously, where did you come up with that one?)

      3. ACE wraps don’t immobilize anything (and unless something is fractured, there is really no reason to completely immobilize anything)

      4. The only thing ice is good for is mild analgesia. That’s the only reason I use it on my athletes. After 24 hours…..no more ice.

  2. Dr. G

    Apr 29, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    Stone gives the example of an athlete with a stress fracture to the leg whose been advised to wear a non-weight bearing boot. Stone’s remedy? “An intricate balance between rest and mechanical loading of bone to obtain optimal healing”

    Any physician not recommending nearly complete offloading for a stress fracture is beyond ludacris. Should that stress reaction turn into a frank fracture due to a lack of informing a patient that it is a possibility with “loading of bone”, the physician will find themself in a sticky situation. Wait 4-6 weeks, observe films along with signs and symptoms, then move on with loading.

    • Em

      Apr 30, 2014 at 8:28 pm

      Ludacris? You mean ludicrous? You ain’t no Dr.

      • Chris

        Apr 30, 2014 at 11:35 pm

        Ain’t? Do you mean are not? I love the grammar battles.

      • Travis

        May 1, 2014 at 8:44 am

        Maybe he’s talking about the rapper… so perhaps he means “beyond controversial”.

  3. Alex the Athletic Trainer

    Apr 29, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    Ben, first of all please refrain from calling us “trainers” we go to school for 4-6 years to become a certified athletic trainer from an accredited program at an accredited university as opposed to “trainers” who take an online class and teach people how to lift. Secondly, I have been following this article for a while now, and have done a lot of research on my own. Ice is important to help with pain management as well as to keep inflammation at a manageable level. I agree that icing after 24 hours is more or less a placebo/band aid for what is going on. Rehab is the only thing that will help to repair the damage done from an acute injury.
    There is still a lot of research that needs to be done, but ice is not the enemy like Dr. Mirkin and his followers like to portray.

  4. The Dr

    Apr 29, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    Just take an anti-inflammatory medication instead, as long as you are not allergic. But – ice is definitely good for concentrated, directed use onto the area immediately inflamed by impact.

    But lets not bring up bone fractures into this mix – you’re confusing different issues there, entirely. No amount of ice is going to HEAL bone fractures. It will, however, still alleviate some of the pain in the area surrounding the bone fracture IF there is any inflammation of the muscle or tissues.

    Reducing inflammation is the issue, and ice is OK for those who do not want to ingest any kind anti-inflammatory medication.

    • Dean ATC

      Apr 30, 2014 at 11:42 pm

      But that gets to the central question around this entire issue….which is why do we want to stop inflammation? Somewhere along the way we have gotten it into our heads that inflammation is the devil. When in fact, it is necessary for healing. It is our bodies natural reaction to injury and illness…..so it’s obviously supposed to occur (our body is pretty smart). Yet we want to ice and take NSAIDS and intentionally stop our bodies natural healing mechanism. Makes no sense.

  5. Chris

    Apr 29, 2014 at 10:44 am

    While I agree that sharp, sudden injuries may not benefit from ice (ACL, torn muscle, dislocated shoulder) I think it is important to understand that ice treatment can be greatly beneficial to long term injury prevention.

    If someone has tendinitis, but still wants to play the sport that is causing the tendinitis, frequent icing will keep the inflammation at a manageable level allowing the athlete to continue to compete. For example, you’ll see most basketball players icing their knees after a game. Similarly baseball pitchers will ice their entire throwing arm after an outing. Again, this helps control the inflammation and pain to allow the athlete to continue to be healthy and effective throughout a long season.

    • Joe

      Apr 29, 2014 at 3:20 pm

      It is becoming more common for pitchers to limit their icing. More influence is coming from Japan, where pitchers don’t ice their arm and have far fewer arm injuries. Correlation is not causation but it has been noticed. Active stretching and heat are becoming en vogue.

      • leftright

        Apr 30, 2014 at 8:13 pm

        I would be more inclined to cite genetics versus treatment of chronic arm conditions, especially in pitchers at the professional level. Another thing that contributes is the way young people are taught to play the game versus Japan. A study, maybe by one of those educated trainers trying to get his MS or PhD. would provide more insight into Japan versus the US pitchers.

  6. Pete

    Apr 29, 2014 at 10:28 am

    On most occasions the bullet: Stop exercising immediately is struck over and the round or what ever payed scheduled tennis court or alike is exploited to it’s full extent. Unless one cannot do anything but roll in pain and agony.

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Opinion & Analysis

How to qualify for the U.S. Amateur (in-depth statistical analysis and tutorial)

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This is a follow-up of sorts to an article that I published on GolfWRX in May 2017: A Modern Blueprint to Breaking 80.  

With the U.S. Amateur concluding at iconic Pebble Beach last weekend, I thought of the many amateurs out there who would love to one day qualify for this prestigious event. Personally, I made it to the State Amateur level, but work and life got in the way and I never made it to the next step. For those who aspire or wonder, here’s an outline of what your game should look like if you want to qualify for the U.S. Amateur.

Scoring

To start with, your USGA Index needs to be 2.4 or lower to even attempt to qualify. If your course is rated 71.5/130*, the best 10 of your most recent 20 scores should average 74.3. This score will adjust slightly up if your course is rated more difficult, and slightly down if it’s rated less difficult. For the purposes of this article, I’m assuming the average course and slope rating above.

*Note: 71.5/130 is the average rating of courses played by single digit handicap golfers in the ShotByShot.com database of 340,000 rounds.

Your average scores by par type will be:

  • Par 3:  3.21
  • Par 4:  4.20
  • Par 5:  4.86

The Fastest and Easiest Way to Lower Your Scores

Every round is a mix of good shots, average shots and bad shots/errors. The challenge is to determine which piece of your game’s unique puzzle is your greatest weakness in order to target your improvement efforts on the highest impact area. If you track the simple good and bad outcomes listed below for a few rounds, your strengths and weaknesses will become apparent.

Tee Game or Driving 

Goals: Hit EIGHT fairways and limit your driving errors to ONE, with the majority being the less costly “No Shot errors” (more on this later).

Distance: I will ignore this and assume you’re maximizing distance as best you can without sacrificing accuracy.

Fairways: Hitting fairways is crucial, as we are all statistically significantly more accurate from the short grass.

Errors: Far more important than Fairways Hit, however, is the FREQUENCY and SEVERITY of misses. To help golfers understand the weaknesses in their game, my golf analysis program allows users to record and categorize the THREE types of Driving Errors: 

  1. No Shot: You have missed in a place from which you do not have a normal next shot and require some sort of advancement to get the ball back to normal play.
  2. Penalty: A 1-stroke penalty due to hazard or unplayable lie.
  3. Lost/OB: Stroke and distance penalty. 

Approach Shots 

Goals:  ELEVEN GIRs and ONE penalty/2nd             

Penalty/2nd:  This means either a penalty or a shot hit so poorly that you are left with yet another full approach shot from greater than 50 yards of the hole.

The chart below displays the typical array of Approach Shot opportunities from the fairway (75 percent fall in the 100 to 200-yard range). The 150 to 175-yard range tends to be the most frequent distance for golfers playing the appropriate distance golf course for their game.

Short Game (defined as shots from within 50 yards of the hole)

Chip/Pitch: If you miss 7 greens, you will have 6 green-side save opportunities. Your goals should be:

  • Percentage of shots to within 5 feet: 40 percent
  • Percentage of Saves: 47 percent (3)
  • Percentage of Errors (shots that miss the green):  6 percent, or approximately 1 in 17 attempts.

Sand: You should have 1 of these green-side save opportunities. Your goals: 

  • Percentage of shots to within 8 feet: 35 percent
  • Percentage Saves: 32 percent
  • Percentage of Errors (shots that miss the green): 13 percent, or approximately 1 in 8 attempts.

Putting: You need just over 31 putts.  Aim for:

  • 1-Putts: 6
  • 3-Putts: 1

The chart below displays the percentage of 1-Putts you will need to make by distance, as well as the typical array of first-putt opportunities by distance. Note that 62 percent of your first-putt opportunities will fall in the 4 to 20-foot range. Adjust your practice efforts accordingly!

Good luck, and please let me know if and when you are successful.

For a complete Strokes Gained Analysis of your game, log on to ShotByShot.com and sign up for a 1-round free trial.

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Opinion & Analysis

Here’s who should be the four U.S. Ryder Cup captain’s picks based on analytics

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After the PGA Championship, the U.S. Ryder Cup team solidified 8 of its 12 players on the team. Now, captain Jim Furyk will have to decide who the other 4 players will be to join the team. In this day and age of advanced data analytics, it is imperative for the U.S. team to utilize an analytical approach. The European team has used advanced analytics in recent Ryder Cups, and they now field one of the best European squads of all time. Any advantage that the Europeans have that the U.S. team can counter would behoove Furyk and his chances of being a winning Ryder Cup captain.

Normally, captains have sought out players that have played well right before the Ryder Cup. This is a sound strategy. My statistical research on the subject is that most players reach peak performance for about four events in a row. Then their performance inevitably dips to a degree before eventually they hit peak performance, again.

The golden rule is that 80 percent of a player’s earnings in a season come in about 20 percent of the events they play in. Thus, if a player earns $2 million and plays 25 events in a season there’s a good likelihood that he earned $1.6 million of that in just 5 events.

These trends show that picking a hot player is fairly important. However, the issue is that Furyk has to make 3 of the picks by September 3rd and the last pick by September 9th and the Ryder Cup starts on September 28th. Thus, it’s very plausible that a player who is picked because they are playing great golf may cool down a bit by the time the Ryder Cup is being played. Therefore, finding a player with a hot hand is not quite what it is cracked up to be. But, I would recommend staying away from players that are playing miserably. History has shown that a hot player that is selected is more likely to perform better at the Ryder Cup than the cold player that gets selected.

There are some simple statistical rules to follow for optimal picks:

  1. Seek out quality performers around the green as it helps most in the Foursome (alternate shot) and individual match play format.
  2. You want birdie makers and quality performers on each of the holes (par-3’s, par-4’s and par-5’s) for the Fourball (best score) format.
  3. Ryder Cup experience doesn’t mean anything if the player is a poor Ryder Cup performer.
  4. All things being equal, take the younger player.
  5. Lean towards the player who fits into both Fourball and Foursome formats over the slightly better player that only fits well into one format.

A good way to start to determine what picks you need is to understand your current team. Here are the rankings in key metrics for the top-8 players on the U.S. team (rankings based out of 205 players):

The top-8 players compile a good driving team that drives the ball effectively thru hitting the ball a long ways rather than being deadly accurate off the tee. One of the best attributes the top-8 has is that they are a very good Short Game team (median ranking of 40.5). They are also pretty good from the Red Zon (175-225 yards), but are better from the Yellow Zone (125-175 yards).

The top-8 has dominated par-4’s (median ranking of 11.5) and par-5’s (median ranking of 20) while being good on the par-3’s (median ranking of 44.5). They also make a lot of birdies (median ranking 27th).

It should also be noted that Brooks Koepka’s data could probably be thrown out since it was skewed by him coming off an injury and he is clearly a different and much improved player in recent months. Koepka has typically been one of the better putters on Tour and a pretty good Red Zone performer.

The potential issues I see is that they do not hit a lot of fairways and have some players with issues hitting shots from the rough which is a bad combination in the Foursome format. Also, Webb Simpson currently stands as their weakest link on the team as he has not played that well in recent months and they will likely need to figure out a way to work around him if his performance doesn’t improve between now and the Ryder Cup.

Here are the picks I would recommend making at this point:

Tiger Woods

This is clearly the easiest pick to make even though Tiger’s Ryder Cup record has not been exactly stellar. Forget about Tiger being arguably the greatest player of all time, his performance has clearly indicated that he deserves to be on this Ryder Cup team. Furthermore, he’s statistically a quality fit in either the Fourball or Foursome format. The only issue I see is that given his age and his back issues, it would be wise to use him in no more than 3 matches in the first two days and even that may be too much for him. But, I would love to see him paired in the Foursome format with a player who hits fairways and can play well from the rough for those drives that Tiger struggles with.

Tony Finau

Finau has had 8 top-10 finishes and 2 second place finishes this season. He’s a nice looking fit at the Ryder Cup because he’s a great fit in the Fourball format and a pretty good fit in the Foursome format. In fact, my simulations find that he and Tiger would be a good fit together in either format.

Bryson DeChambeau

Again, versatility and youth play a key role in his selection. You never quite know who is going to show up at the Ryder Cup and who may get injured. Thus, there’s always a need for a player that fits both formats and can play in ever match if needed. The simulations I’ve ran really like a Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau pairing.

Patrick Cantlay

This was a difficult choice between Cantlay, Mickelson and Zach Johnson. The pros for Mickelson is that he has played well in recent Ryder Cups and certainly has the experience. He’s also not a bad fit in the Foursome format and a really good fit in the Fourball format if paired with another birdie making machine that avoids bogeys and plays well on par-3’s (i.e. Koepka, Fowler and Tiger). Zach has been a quality Ryder Cup performer as well and is best suited for the Foursome format. However, he’s not such a bad fit in the Fourball format. He doesn’t hit it long, but he does make birdies (43rd in Adjusted Birdie Percentage).

From a pure numbers point of view, my simulations favor Cantlay. I wish he was better from the Red Zone and from the rough, but he’s still a quality candidate in both formats and has youth on his side. For sentimental reasons, I would pick Mickelson because the simulations such as him and Tiger in the Fourball format, and this will likely be the last time that the two can ever be paired together. The numbers don’t care about emotions, though. And that’s why Cantlay is the pick for now. It would just be wise to wait until September 9th to make the final pick.

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Opinion & Analysis

Prospective NCAA Golfers, are you ready for September 1? Here’s what you should be doing

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In June, I reported changes to the NCAA rules, including new legislation that prevented college coaches from contacting a prospective student athlete before September 1 of their Junior Year. With September 1 just around the corner, the question is: are you ready?

If not, don’t worry. As always, I am here to help you understand the college landscape and find the best opportunity to pursue your passion in college! Here’s what you need to know:

Be Prepared

Over time, you are going to hear from some coaches. It is important that students are prepared to talk to coaches. Before speaking to a coach, it is important to do research about their institution; what are the grades required for admissions? How many players are on the team? How much of the student population lives on campus? Know the basics before your conversation.

It is also important that you are ready to answer a couple questions. Coaches are very likely to ask, why are you interested in my school? Tell me about your grades or academic interests? Or, tell me about your golf game? Be honest and remember a passion for the game goes a long way.

Coaches are also likely to ask if you have any questions. Having a couple questions written down is important. If you are not sure what to ask, here are some questions I recommend:

  • What is your coaching philosophy?
  • What is your favourite part of coaching?
  • What type of student best fits in at your university?
  • What type of athlete best fits in?
  • What are the goals for the golf program?
  • How do you determine who play play in your top 5 at tournaments?
  • Do you ever take more than 5 players to a tournament?
  • What access does the team have to golf courses?
  • Is it expected to have your own vehicle?
  • Do you do any technical swing work with the players?
  • What is your greatest strength as a coach?
  • Do you offer academic support, such as tutors for students?
  • What percent of teachers have terminal degrees?
  • How does my major (X) impact golf? Can I do it and golf?
  • Do you support graduates in getting jobs?
  • What success do people have getting jobs?
  • What success do people have getting into grad schools?

Know the Numbers

With only a couple weeks before September 1, I would recommend you take time and see where you (or your son and daughter) stands on websites such as Junior Golf Scoreboard or Rolex AJGA Rankings. Now that you know the number, consider in several previous articles I have presented how rankings related to college signings. My analysis of the numbers demonstrates that, for boys, the average Division I player is ranked approximately 300 in Junior Golf Scoreboard in their class with a scoring differential of about .5. The average Division II player is ranked about 550 in their class. For girls, it appears that ranking is less important, but there is a strong relationship between scoring differential and college signings. Girls that sign at schools within the top 50 have scoring differentials of at least -3 or better, while the average for any Division I player is approximately 5.

Keep in mind that when you search on Junior Golf Scoreboard for yourself, it will show your ranking overall. This number is going to be much lower for your ranking in your class. Without a subscription, you will not be able to find your exact rank, but I would generally say you can cut the number by about 50 percent to give yourself a fair gauge. So if you are 3750 overall, you are likely close to 1875 in your class.

For many members of the junior class reading this article, they may see that their ranking might be significantly higher than these numbers. Don’t panic; the rankings are over a 1-year period. After a year, old scores drop off and new scores can be counted. Also, on Junior Golf Scoreboard, your worst 25 percent of rounds are not counted. So, you have time to continue to work on your game, improve your ranking and get the attention of coaches!

Do your research

Now that you have an idea about your ranking, start researching. Where did players of similar rank sign last year? What is the rank of that school? What schools are ranked about the same? Answering these questions will require some time and two resources; Junior Golf Scoreboard and Golfstat.com. To find out where similar players signed from last year, go to njgs.com, then under the tab “rankings & honors,” the bottom option is college signees. Click there, and then you can order the signees based on class rank by clicking on “scoreboard class ranking as of signing date.” You will notice that last year, players ranked about 1800 in their class signed at such schools as Kenyon, Glenville, Southern Nazarene, Central Alabama Community college and Allegany college. Pretty good considering these schools have produced a president of the United States (Hayes, Kenyon), and a 5-time Major Championship participant (Nathan Smith, Allegany).

Now that you have a list of schools where similar students have signed, look up the golf rankings of these schools on golfstat.com. The rankings of schools are under the “rankings” tab on the home page and segmented by NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA.

First find out where the school is ranked and then consider schools ranked 5-10 spots ahead and behind that school. Are any of these of interest? Any where you think might sound interesting? Take time and build a list, then send an email to those schools introducing yourself, along with a swing video.

Have a Plan

Regardless if you are a Junior in High School or a Senior in High School, come September 1, remember that there is still time and regardless of what people say, coaches are always looking. For High School Juniors, it is likely that next summer will have a critical impact on your opportunities in college golf, so what can you do over the next 9 months? Where are you missing out on the most shots? Take time, talk to people and develop a plan to give yourself the best chance to succeed in the future. And then, put in the time!

For Seniors, although many might be in your ear saying it’s too late, don’t listen to them. You still have some time. Take a careful look at how you can use the next 2-3 months to improve and prepare for events such as the AJGA Senior Showcase in Las Vegas. Remember that data suggests that up to one-third of players sign in the late period (for all levels) and up to 60 percent of players who compete in the AJGA Senior Showcase in December in Las Vegas, go on to get offers.

As always, if you have any feedback on this article or a story idea, please feel free to reach out to me! I always love hearing from people and helping them connect with schools that meet their academic, athletic, social and financial needs! Best of luck to you, or your son/daughter.

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