I have to say that personally I was very excited to see this newly published article investigating a trial that used golf tuition and practice as a form of rehabilitation for those who have experienced a stroke. For a while now I have been discussing with various coaches the possibility of setting up programs that support the rehabilitation work of physiotherapists and exercise physiologists and using golf as a vehicle for helping people get back to leading a full and healthy life. I see this public health avenue as the next phase of both career development for coaches and community engagement for the sport of golf. This pilot study is a great example of where we as a sport should be going.

Article Title
The improvement of visual-spatial performance after golf training in patients with stroke: A pilot study. Jansen, Petra; Schachten, Tobias, International Journal of Psychogeriatrics, September 2016, Vol 27, Issue 5, p. 165-173.

The present study examined the influence of golf training on chronic stroke patients’ visual-spatial abilities and memory, balance, and emotional wellbeing. Recruited patients (between 1 and 18 years after the stroke) were assigned to either a golf training group (experimental group, EG) or to a social communication meeting group (control group). The golf training group was further separated regarding the time of the stroke, less than 5 years ago (EG1) vs. equal to or more than 5 years ago (EG 2). Experimental and control groups participated in activities once or twice a week for a total of one and a half to two hours, for a period of ten weeks. All participants completed a visual-spatial memory test, a mental rotation test, a balance scale, and an emotional wellbeing questionnaire before and after the intervention period.

The main results indicated that stroke patients who received regular golf training (i.e., a training which was not specifically tailored to the patient group) showed a significant improvement in the mental rotation performance compared to the control group. There was no difference in the results between EG1 and EG2, hence there was no effect of the time of stroke. Findings indicate that golf training can improve visual imagery ability in stroke patients, even late after stroke.
So the take home message here is that as soon as physically able people who are suffering from any form of chronic disease should get back to golf. The benefits of getting back to golf extend far beyond the physical benefits with many social support and mental health benefits as well. However, it is great to see studies underway that can demonstrate empirical evidence for specific health benefits for specific health conditions so that peak bodies can begin to mount a case for government funding to set up programs that use golf as a vehicle for better health outcomes.

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