By DR. ROBERT LYNCH

I have looked out the window and I know the golf courses are covered in snow. In order for you to play your best golf this year you need to prepare now; golf season has now begun.

We only have approximately six to eight weeks before the courses open for the season. Now is the time to prepare to walk five to six miles carrying or pushing your golf bag and swinging your club 200 to 300 times a round, including practice swings.

It takes more than the newest driver with a graphite shaft and titanium head the size of a mailbox to shave strokes off your game. This is not enough to beat your friends the next time you play.

All the professional golfers on tour work hard to improve their driving, irons, short game and putting. This is not enough to win on tour. They all work on the most important piece of equipment that they bring to the golf course: their body.

Approximately 20 percent to 25 percent of the population plays golf at least once a year. Statistics show 50 percent of all golfers suffer a golf-related injury. I have seen these injuries to be mild, such as muscle soreness or strain to more severe injuries like back pain, tendinitis, knee pain and plantar fasciitis.

Preparing now for the start of the season will ensure you have a more enjoyable golf experience and a chance to play better golf. Playing in pain is no fun.

As a student of the game I believe injuries occur for a number of reasons. These include deconditioning, loss of flexibility, poor endurance, poor swing mechanics, wrong equipment, improper warm-up, overuse syndrome and hitting “fat shots.”

I have found if you improve your strength and endurance, your flexibility will naturally improve. This will allow you to swing the golf club faster while not swinging it harder.

I strongly recommend that you work with a local PGA teaching professional. They will work on your posture, grip and swing mechanics. They will also make sure you are playing with the right equipment.

This will help you hit the ball farther, reduce injuries and improve your handicap.

I have found too many people getting golf lessons from well-meaning friends on the course. Remember, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Michelle Wie all work with PGA professionals and practice what they learn.

You should, too. Start this golf season with a few lessons and you will be glad you did.

The average woman swings a golf club at 55 mph while the average male swings at 85 mph. The average male touring professional swings at 108 mph, with some as high as 125 mph.

While the amateur swings more slowly than the professional, we put 50 percent more torque on our lower back because of poor swing mechanics and conditioning. This is one reason I have so many golfers with lower back pain.

Women golfers have the same propensity to lower back injuries as men, but they have more wrist, elbow, shoulder and neck injuries. Women tend to swing the club more with their arms than with their legs and hips.

My preseason conditioning program includes aerobic activity such as running, cycling, swimming and elliptical machine. I also recommend yoga for muscle tone and flexibility. I love physio balls to improve flexibility, strength and balance.

I recommend that golfers concentrate on their legs, hips and their core, which includes your abdomen and lower back. This is where your power and endurance is generated.

I have found when you do a preseason conditioning program while working with your PGA pro, it will result in a long, smooth, powerful golf swing.

As I watched the Super Bowl, I got to see hours upon hours of preparation by each team as they tried to win the Lombardi Trophy. Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers may have won the MVP of the Super Bowl but it took a team effort for him to achieve the honor.

Rodgers had to have his offensive line block the Steelers’ defense to have time to pass. He had to have his receivers catch the ball and run with it.

For these plays to work, Rodgers and the Packers had to have a coaching staff develop a strategy and draw up plays they thought would work against the Steelers.

The goal for the Packers and Steelers, and all teams in the NFL, is to get to the Super Bowl and become champions. Only one team gets to be called Super Bowl champion.

During the game there were a number of players injured. Some injuries were minor and the player just shook it off and continued to play. Others were more severe and took the player out of the game.

How an injured player is evaluated and treated on the field is well orchestrated. The trainer for the team does the initial evaluation on the field or the sideline. He will decide whether the injury is significant or not and what care to provide the player.

All of this starts at preseason. The players train in the offseason to get ready for training camp. During this time they have a training program developed by the strength and conditioning coach. Training camp is where they will compete to make the team and learn the plays.

The team also puts together a staff of trained health care providers. This medical staff will include internists, orthopedists, chiropractors and physical therapists who will work with the team trainer.

I was visiting a classmate, Dr. Elliott Grusky of Miami, last May. Dr. Grusky for the past 14 years has been the team chiropractor for the University of Miami.

He started working with the football team. Because of his success, players from the other teams started to use his services.

During my visit he got a phone call from the trainer for the baseball team. The Hurricanes were playing Virginia, at the time the No. 1 team in the country. He was hoping Dr. Grusky could come down to the stadium that night to evaluate and treat several players.

The Hurricanes play in the new Alex Rodriguez Stadium.

Inside the locker room the music was pounding and the players were getting dressed and having a light snack before the game. A chiropractic table was set up.

I met the trainer, who is from New Hampshire and is a graduate of Northeastern University. He went into the training room to work on some players while Dr. Grusky started his work.

Very few of us get to have this kind of access to this level of care for our sports injuries.

If you are a parent of a student-athlete, get to know the trainer for the school. Let the trainer know the medical history of your child.

Also let the trainer know the health care providers you have worked with in the past. Ask the trainer who he likes to work with as well.

If you are a weekend warrior, you can also develop a team of sports specialists to prevent and treat your injuries so you can stay in the game.

This week we lost a legend. The “Godfather of Fitness” died at the ripe, old age of 96. Jack LaLanne has been an inspiration for eight decades, preaching the virtues of vibrant health and how to achieve it. Many only know him as the guy selling juicers on TV.

Jack LaLaneJack LaLanne, the “Godfather of Fitness,” died at the ripe, old age of 96.

LaLanne has a fascinating history we can all learn from. He was a sickly child. At age 3 he was said to be very hyperactive. He was addicted to sugar and his mother would give him candy as a reward.

His health continued to deteriorate and his teeth were discolored; he was underweight, disruptive in school, prone to fevers and infections. His mother was a wreck worrying about his health.

She and young Jack attended a Paul Bragg seminar. Mr. Bragg changed Jack’s life. Bragg told them it is not your age that counts, but what matters is your present physical condition.

Bragg explained the importance of eating correctly and exercising. Jack became a convert. What did he have to lose?

During those early years he was his own human laboratory. He studied anatomy and nutrition. He read medical journals and muscle-building magazines. He tried being a vegetarian for a short time and drank vegetable juice.

LaLanne joined the YMCA at age 15 and started to lift weights. He soon built his own gym in his backyard in Berkeley, Calif. He became the quarterback for his high school football team.

LaLanne wanted to understand the human body. He wanted to help it naturally. He became a doctor of chiropractic and learned how the structure of the body affects the function of the body.

LaLanne’s body was not perfect. He had a knee injury in football and after surgery he could not do a full squat.

He wanted to enlist in the Navy at the start of World War II. To avoid doing a squat in the physical exam, he was showing off by doing handstands and one-arm push-ups. He was listed as A1.

LaLanne did not have perfect genes. His father neglected himself and died in his 40s. This is a great example of how lifestyle can determine your health more than your genetic code.

At age 21, LaLanne opened the first modern gym. He had a number of gyms across the country bearing his name.

He started a television exercise show in 1951, and it ran for 36 years. He came into your living room to make you healthier. He kept his show straightforward and simple. Usually his only prop was a kitchen chair.

I encourage you to go online to YouTube and watch his shows. He often talks of sugarholics and obesity in children. He was ahead of his time.

LaLanne’s principles for vibrant health have stood the test of time. He often said, “Exercise is king, nutrition is queen and the two together make a kingdom.”

LaLanne taught us to exercise daily by stretching, lifting weights and doing cardiovascular exercises. He also taught us about nutrition. If man has modified it, do not to eat it. He wanted us to eat wholesome, organic fruits and vegetables with lean protein.

He talked about drinking clean water and maintaining good posture. He was a firm believer is staying motivated and enthusiastic about life. Wear a smile on your face.

He was married for over 60 years to his wife, Elaine.

His purpose in life was to help you live a better life.

The temporal mandibular joint, better known as the TMJ, is the hinge joint that allows your mouth to open and close. It is made up of the mandible or jawbone, which attaches to the temple bone of the skull.

Injuries to the TMJ can be significant. This patient is one of my fittest patients. He owns a gym and does personal training for his clients. He takes his profession very seriously and is very good at what he does.

On previous visits I have been amazed at his knowledge and advice he gives his clients. I always enjoy sharing ideas with him on how to get the most out of our athletes.

His usual complaints would be lower back or neck pain from training with clients. These complaints responded quickly and easily with standard chiropractic procedures.

Today’s visit is different. He gives me a history of severe headaches on the left side of his head. The headaches were so severe that his wife took him to the emergency room of the hospital twice over the weekend hoping to get some medication to relieve the pain.

These are not your normal tension headaches. He was having migraine headaches for the first time.

My question was, “Why is he having migraine headaches now when he had no history of them before?”

His history ruled out any other health issues that could be a cause of his headaches. There were no known contributing factors.

During our conversation I noticed his face wasn’t straight. He had what’s called a banana head. His face was shaped like a banana. His jaw was off to the left.

During my examination, his left TMJ was tender to the touch with a muscle spasm. When I had him repeatedly open his mouth, his jaw deviated to the left.

I also found a muscle spasm and restricted motion in his cervical spine. All other testing was normal.

I told him his cervical spine and TMJ were involved with his migraine headaches. I wanted to know what he did to cause an injury to his TMJ and neck.

He said he was training a mixed martial arts athlete. The man had his forearm on his jaw pushing his head to the mat. He tried to escape from the position and the force of the forearm must have moved the TMJ out of alignment.

I recommended and treated both his TMJ and cervical spine with manipulation and massage of the muscles of the TMJ. He followed up several days later and the banana head was much improved. No headaches since his last visit.

Other symptoms associated with TMJ disorder are pain and cracking noise when you bite. This may cause you to grind your teeth. The TMJ also can be caused by teeth moving and gum disease.

This is when your dentist or a dental TMJ specialist is needed. They may have to make you a mouthguard for sleeping, and treat your teeth and gums.

Exercises also can be prescribed to balance the muscles. The TMJ muscles are thought to be the strongest in the body.

TMJ disorders are common in whiplash type injuries that cause the jaw to open violently and beyond its normal range of motion.

I like to see athletes wear mouthguards. This not only protects the teeth from injury but causes the athlete to have his jaw clinched shut. In the event that a blow occurs to the jaw, the TMJ is protected from excessive motion.

Phil Knight, the founder and CEO of Nike, is credited with saying “If you have a body you are an athlete.” If this is true, then each and every one of us was born to exercise.

I have seen athletes come in all shapes and sizes. They also come with different desires and aspirations. Some are motivated and many are not.

We all know former athletes who are totally out of shape and wonder how did that happen. Why did they lose the desire to continue in the sport in which they excelled? As a result, their health is now compromised.

In my practice I have patients who are very disciplined and focused on their health and physical conditioning. I also have patients who when they have the urge to exercise they lie down until the urge passes.

As the New Year approaches I believe it is time to take inventory of your life. It is time to look back and determine what you did well this past year and where you can make improvements for the new year.

If you have not exercised this past year and your diet is made up of processed foods and too many soft drinks either sugar- free or not, now is time to get moving and clean up your diet. If you are consuming too much alcohol, get it under control. If you smoke, quit now.

I recommend to my patients that they set health goals for the New Year. Most of us have financial goals, vacation goals or projects we have identified to do around the house and yard.

I always recommend that you write your goals down and read them before you start your day and when you go to bed at night. This will constantly remind you of the goals you have set. Just having a gym membership is not good enough.

I have found the book “Changing for Good” by Joe Prochaska to be an excellent resource to help me with my patients as they start their journey to better health and recovery from injuries. In this book the author describes changing as a six-step process:

Precontemplation

Contemplation

Preparation

Action

Maintenance

Termination

You can use these steps to stop smoking, lose weight or change your lifestyle. This will guide you to reaching new levels of health and performance.

My sister, Bridgette Vermette, is an excellent example of putting these principles to work. She is a busy real-estate broker, married and mother of three grown children. She didn’t realize that she was not as fit as she thought (precontemplation).

Once she realized this (contemplation) she took the next step, which is looking for a gym and a personal trainer that she liked and was convenient to her (preparation).

She is now going to the gym on a regular schedule (action) and meets with her trainer.

Bridgette has not yet met her fitness goals (maintenance) but she is making excellent progress.

When you reach the last step (termination) this does not mean you quit. It means the changes you have made in your life are now part of you. It would never cross your mind to go back to where you came from.

If you have never exercised or if you are a highly competitive athlete, you can use these steps to improve your health, wellness and performance.

When should you do it? NOW!

Let’s make 2011 your best year ever.