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Get Well, Stay Well, Golf WELL: Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center Helps Golfers Get Back in the Swing

April 22, 2009
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Marti Kunishima, Physical Therapist and Titleist Performance Institute (TPI)-Certified Golf Fitness Instructor, assists a golfer with his swing.

Marti Kunishima, Physical Therapist and Titleist Performance Institute (TPI)-Certified Golf Fitness Instructor, assists a golfer with his swing.

There you are, dressed comfortably in T-shirt, shorts and tennis shoes with your set of golf clubs securely slung over your shoulder. But while your envious neighbor thinks you’re off to the golf course, this time you have an even more important destination in mind –the Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation department at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center (PVHMC) where you’ll be working with Marti Kunishima, Physical Therapist and Titleist Performance Institute (TPI)-Certified Golf Fitness Instructor.

Whether you’re seeking to get back safely on the golf course after surgery or an injury, trying to prevent injuries from occurring in the first place or simply looking to take your golf game to the next level, Marti can help. She is not only a skilled clinician who knows golf, fitness and physical therapy, but also a teacher who has the rare ability to transfer those unique talents and passions to helping golfers of any age.

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A former Division 1 scholarship swimmer in college, Marti took up golf in the mid-90s with her husband John, a swimming and water polo coach, as a new, less competitive (or so they thought) sports outlet to pursue. It wasn’t long, however, before the couple was seduced by their new hobby, taking family vacations to golfing resorts, joining Vellano Country Club in Chino Hills with its Greg Norman designed course, and plunking their young boys into their golf carts right alongside them.

As a physical therapist, Marti also began researching programs that she thought she could incorporate into PVHMC’s Sports Medicine Center, specifically a golf wellness program to get golfers back on the course safely and to keep them there through a customized, golf-specific fitness program.

“Over 30 million people play golf regularly,” Marti said, “and another 3 million take it up each year. Of those, nearly 80% will experience golf-related injuries. Our motivation was clear: We wanted to help golfers get well, stay well and golf well.”

Falling back into her Division 1 mindset, Marti heard about the Titleist Performance Institute based in Carlsbad, Calif., a world-class golf-specific fitness and training center founded by Dr. Greg Rose and Top 100 PGA Teaching Pro Dave Phillips, where she went on to be certified in the same elite methods that TPI uses to help world-class golfers achieve their aims. PVHMC sponsored Marti’s advanced education, an investment that has paid off handsomely for area golfers who want to hit farther and score lower while playing more pain-free golf.

Once at PVHMC’s Sports Medicine Center, the golfing enthusiast undergoes an initial evaluation where Marti calculates your “golf fitness handicap.” The assessment identifies areas of flexibility, strength, rotational mobility, core stability, posture, spinal range of motion and other physical characteristics critical to the golf swing. The head-to-toe screening analyzes more than 20 different potential trouble spots, from your grip strength to your glute strength, from your hip rotation to your shoulder rotation. Some of the motions Marti puts her patients and learners through on the lawn outside the therapy center draw some raised eyebrows from her fellow clinicians.

“They’re thinking what are you doing with these people?” Marti admitted. “With all the pelvic movements that you need in golf, you get into some pretty comical positions.”

After gathering the golfer’s biomechanical data, including swing and posture evaluations, she enters it into TPI’s proprietary software program, which then prepares a customized, real-time fitness workout for her students to follow.

“Your workout is going to address those areas where you’re most limited,” Marti said. “For instance, if your hamstrings are tight, or your internal rotator or your hip is tight, your exercise regimen will personally give you the stretches you need to expand your range of motion.”

Back home, the golfers under Marti’s care log on to TPI.com, enter their password and follow their prescribed exercises, with the aid of video demonstrations by professional golfers. Through the interactive program, Marti knows whether her students have completed their exercises and sends friendly emails reminding them to keep up. She is even in constant communication with her patients’ teaching pros to coordinate their exercises with her own.

Typically, Marti prescribes a series of 18 workouts to be carried out over two or three months, no two of which are exactly alike. Ideally, golfers return to the center after the first week to ensure they’re performing their routines correctly. Then it’s recommended they return after completing their 18-workout block for a reassessment to measure improvement.

“We’re always monitoring and modifying your program so it remains appropriate to your needs,” Marti said. “Maybe you’ve had your knee replaced and you can’t kneel. In that case, we might put you on a Swiss ball or put you in a seated position. The therapist plays a big role in making sure your exercises are providing the maximum benefit.”

Plus, Marti designs programs according to the golfer’s access to exercise equipment. “I can design your program for a home gym or your neighborhood gym, or if you want to come here and do your exercises,” Marti said. “You don’t need a lot of equipment.”

What golfers do need is the will to get and keep their bodies fit and healthy to be able tackle the great game of golf, and the balance, strength and stamina it requires to both endure and conquer the golf course.

An initial Golf WELL evaluation session is $140. Golf WELL advanced single sessions are $90. The Golf WELL Discount Fitness Package, which includes the initial evaluation, four individual training sessions and reassessment, is $500.

Whether you’re returning to golf after surgery, battling pain or stiffness, losing distance off the tee, seeking a greater range of motion or have been unable to improve your game even with lessons, Golf WELL, offered through PVHMC’s Sports Medicine Center, could be just the ticket for new success on the links.

For the golfers in your family, a Golf WELL gift certificate (think Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduation and wedding gifts) could keep your loved ones out on the course enjoying what they love most.

For more information, please contact Marti at (909) 865-9810 or by email, marti.kunishima@pvhmc.org.

Marti and golfer repeat the swing, because with golf you can never practice enough.

Marti and golfer repeat the swing, because with golf you can never practice enough.

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