18 year old Cameron Champ had to take an entire semester off his freshman year at Texas A&M because of two bulging discs and a stress fracture in his lower back.
These are unheard of injuries for someone this young.
And they don’t seem to be going away anytime soon, as Champ had to withdraw from the Players Championship in March with back spasms and tightness.
Is he at increased risk because of his ridiculous speed? In otherwords, does it simply come with the territory?
Or is his risk of injury greater because of how he is swinging?
Is exact answer is unknowable until we have the technology to measure forces acting on the spine – torquing, compressing, and shearing. Unquestionably he has a high amount of all three because of his super high speed.
Champ is averaging 129 mph this year on tour with 192 mph ball speed. And he can easily crank it up into the mid 130’s.
But the types of injuries he has suffered are rare on the Long Drive Tour, where I’ve coached over 100 players in multiple age groups.
I tend to put the blame on the way Champ uses his hips. Lets watch:
I describe his hip action as flat (horizontal), with the tailbone moving towards the target during the wind up phase. Can you see how his rear belt loop actually swings several inches towards his target at the top of the swing? This is very different from the classic swings of Sam Snead and Mike Austin.
Check out this classic photo of Snead at the top of his swing. It features more tilt of the hips, a detached left heel, and a rear belt loop that does not move targetward:
Another look and Cameron’s Champ’s move – this time with an iron:
Mike Austin used to call this type of hip action, “Showing his ass to the group on the green.”
Performing this against the wall at home, even slowly, I can feel the awkwardness of the move in my lumbar spine. Additionally, I can sense the difference in the rate and depth at which my knee snaps straight – compared to my normal pivot.
In order to keep his butt back against the wall, with no early extension of the hips, he’s forced to spin the left hip back around abruptly, which leads to a very forceful snapping (hyperextending) of the left knee
Unfortunately I would predict that Cameron Champ will continue to have issues with his back and knee – which will likely result in major surgeries as he gets older and starts to lose range of motion about the spine.
Time will tell – but I was right about Tiger’s back and knee surgeries years before they happened. So stay tuned.