September 21, 2009
It is humiliating. One moment the athlete is walking tall, improbable muscles straining the seams of his shirt. The next moment he is like a baby crawling around the bedroom carpet on his hands and knees.
Back injury scythes down the professional sportsman with the same cold steel it uses on the hunched-up office worker.
Seven years ago Justin Rose came home from Qatar virtually crippled. He says: “I woke up one morning and I couldn’t move. I didn’t know how to get dressed. It took me two hours to get my socks on. I arrived home in a wheelchair. I thought I would never hit a golf ball again.”
A friend advised Rose to call Antoni Jakubowski, a chiropractor who has owned and run the Gonstead Clinic on Harley Street for the past 20 years. Jakubowski has treated many of the world’s leading athletes and has a habit of coming up with seemingly miracle cures. Ten days later Rose was hitting golf balls again.
As athletes become ever more powerful, their bodies have to endure ever greater forces. Each year the casualty list seems to get longer and longer.
Jakubowski says: “The brain controls the body, the spinal chord is a continuation of the brain. In between each vertebra the nerves exit to supply certain parts of the body. It’s all mapped out.
“For example I see a lot of patients who have tingling and numbness in their fingers from repetitive strain injury, but the problem originates in the neck.”
Jakubowski watches Tiger Woods walking with his left foot pointed in and sees a problem in his lower left back.
A lot of the people who Jakubowski sees are not professional athletes, but people like you and I who make innocent mistakes.
Jakubowski says: “The number of cases of scoliosis [a painful curvature of the spine] I have diagnosed that have come from families with trampolines in the back garden is astronomical.”
But there is some good news in all of this. Jakubowski says: “Golf is brilliant for your back. Hitting a golf ball uses lots of different muscles. You then go for a walk. It only becomes detrimental when you stand on a range hitting countless shots.”
So practice makes your back imperfect. But playing seven rounds of golf a week is as healthy as it gets. More…