Rory McIlroy’s Biggest Injury Concern

Apparently the #1 ranked golfer in the world isn’t bulletproof.

On Sunday, the PGA’s top-ranked player, Rory McIlroy, posted this photo on his Instagram account, revealing that he had completely torn a ligament in his ankle while playing soccer with his buddies.


Of course it can be said, and it has been said, that his injury was “foolish” and “stupid.” Should the No. 1 golfer in the world be playing soccer? That’s debatable, and folks have weighed in on both ends of the spectrum. I think it’s safe to say that sarcasm and vitriol have ruled the Twitter-sphere over the last few days.

But, while everyone is worried about the short-term impact this injury will have on his World Golf Rankings, I think there is a far greater concern that Rory hasn’t even thought about. Most of the concern has focused around Rory’s ankle, and rightly so. That’s where the injury occurred, and there needs to be focus there. He’ll certainly need to have a focused, tailored rehab program geared toward rehabilitating the ankle. That’s a given.

Additionally, questions about when he will return are inevitable and expected. Early estimates say he’ll be out for at least 6-8 weeks, but most likely longer that that. There was actually talk of him playing through this particular injury, but he confirmed today that he will miss the third major tournament of the year, The Open Championship, scheduled for July 16-19 at St. Andrews

I believe Rory’s focus shouldn’t be solely on his ankle, and he shouldn’t worry about when he’ll tee it up again. No, I believe there is a much, much larger potential problem starting him in the face. It’s an issue that is lurking under the surface that he most likely has no idea is even there.

Rory’s hip function is in serious jeopardy.

Think about it: proper ankle function leads to proper hip function, and vice versa. Remember, the foot bone is connected to the ankle bone, and it’s a two-way street. While Rory is hobbling around in a boot for the next several weeks, it might just be his left hip that suffers the most. Take a look at this picture:

GaitSpecifically, take a look at the middle of the picture where it says, “Terminal Stance” and “Pre-Swing” as these need to be our areas of focus. As you go through the gait process, Terminal Stance is when your “standing leg” reaches the end point of its contact with the ground. The Pre-Swing phase is when that same leg begins to swing forward. Your hip flexes, lifts your foot off the ground, and propels the leg forward to continue the walking process.

But there’s a key moment where I want us to focus for a second, and it’s precisely what Rory will be missing during the gait cycle for the next several weeks. Focus on the Pre-Swing phase. At that moment, the ankle starts to plantar flex (as if you were pointing your toes to the ground) while the hip is still in extension. When you’re in that toe-off position, the body is readying the hip for engagement. The hip flexor (one of the most important muscles of the human body) is being called into action. The hip is being asked to work, providing a key element to the gait cycle. But for Rory, that isn’t going to happen. He’s in a boot, and he’s on crutches. Not a good combination. Because his ankle isn’t allowed to function properly, there’s no way his hip will function properly. Truth be told, he’s in jeopardy of his left hip shutting down.

Even after the fact, because he’ll be timid to load his left foot and ankle when he does return, and because he hasn’t loaded his left hip in weeks due to being on crutches, I believe Rory is setting himself up for a major injury sooner rather than later. If his left hip to shuts down over the next several weeks, he’s really rolling the dice on whether he’ll ever make a full recovery. With Rory’s swing (or any golfer for that matter), his left hip is incredibly important. It’s his lead hip, his weight-acceptance hip, the one that has to be able to stay down, loaded, and engaged as the club head approaches the ball.

Please understand, I’m not trying to play Nostradamus, but I’ve seen compensatory injuries far too often throughout my Egoscue career to not see it coming. If you’re doubting what I’m saying, you can reference the numerous times I’ve discussed Tiger Woods’ injuries HERE (listen to the radio segment I did), HERE, HERE and HERE.

Not only is Rory in danger of losing hip function, but because he’ll be overcompensating with his upper body during that time as a result of the crutches, he is setting himself up for an upper-body injury down the road as well.

For Rory’s sake, and for the game of golf, I truly hope that history isn’t repeating itself and we aren’t seeing the beginning of the end for another No. 1 golfer in the world.

QUESTION: What are your thoughts on Rory’s injury and future?