Hunter Mahan’s Shoulder Injury

Let me say from the beginning, Hunter Mahan has a great looking swing. I’m certainly not here to critique his swing–that’s not my job. My job is to evaluate whether or not his swing is functional. We all know that golf swings don’t need to be “pretty.” You can have a completely “ugly” swing, like that of Jim Furyk, and still get the job done. But, when compared to a lot of swings on the PGA Tour today, Mahan’s is one of the more “pretty” ones.

However, despite his good swing, he just withdrew from the Australian Open yesterday with a shoulder injury. He cited pain around his right shoulder. If you know me, I had to do some investigating. I’m curious as to why he has the pain. One thing I thought was interesting is that Mahan is quoted as saying that the pain is usually on his left shoulder blade, but it had jumped to his right side.

Through photo and video analysis, it appears (as best I can tell with not having Hunter here in front of me) that his left hip isn’t functioning properly. I’ll explain to you what I mean.

In video analysis he really bails out with his hips on his follow-through. In laymen’s terms, right at impact, his upper body has collapsed down on his lower body forcing his hips to shift laterally to “clear out” and allow him to turn through the swing. It appears he accomplishes this by driving his left knee into hyperextension. As the knee hyperextends, his hips shift “out” and he is able to clear his hips. However, his upper body still has to catch up. At this point, he has become somewhat of an upper-body golfer. I believe his shoulder pain to be caused by a left hip that can’t load properly. It isn’t working for him by stabilizing as he shifts his weight from his right hip (backswing) to his left hip (downswing/follow-through). As a result, his upper body has to make up for it. The result is that he’s hitting his driver 350 yards without the help of his left hip and asking his left shoulder (usually) to do the majority of the work. That’s a recipe for pain. The fix is simple–When he’s able to functionally load his left hip, all of this will go away. I promise, Hunter.

I found one picture that captured exactly what I’m talking about. Notice how far “out” his hips are compared to the rest of the body. And, notice how his upper body had collapsed down on top of his lower body:

Also, if you fast forward to the 3:50 mark of this video from Wayne DeFrancesco, you’ll see what I’m talking about.

I also noticed his left-hip dysfunction when looking at pictures. In this first one where he’s standing, notice how his left hip is elevated and his left foot points out more than his right. If I stopped searching with just this picture I can assume that his left hip is doing something completely different than his right hip.

There were a couple other pictures of him squatting down reading putts where the left hip dysfunction jumped out at me. Can you see it?

Notice the position of his left ankle. He can’t get it as far down to the ground as his right ankle. This is, without a doubt, a breakdown in his kinetic chain. He’s lost the “link” between his left hip, left knee, and left ankle. When one joint losses its full range of motion, the others will follow suit. It’s just that simple. Because his left hip isn’t loading properly, his left ankle is suffering as well.

Mahan’s shoulder pain has nothing to do with his shoulders. It has everything to do with his hips. The shoulders are simply compensating. I read that he got some relief from a chiropractic adjustment after nine holes, however, the adjustment didn’t hold. He has to implement muscular engagement to hold his body in position to really eliminate his pain. And I DON’T mean strength training. If he simply strengthens his muscles on his current joint position, he’s building a Ferrari on a bent frame. Not good, and NOT productive.

Hunter, stay focused on the position of your body, rather than the condition of your body and you’ll not only be pain free, but you’ll be even more consistent with your golf game than you already are.

QUESTION: What dysfunctions have you noticed in professional athletes?