Local doctor provides inside info: PGA Tour golfers get chance to have body scans for data
When Jim Furyk tees off today in the PGA Tour's The Barclays tournament, he will do so armed with inside information provided by Dr. Bright McConnell, a local orthopedist.
McConnell has been performing body scans this week on PGA Tour golf pros, giving them a detailed look from the inside-out on what exactly is going on inside their bodies.
"It actually shows you what you are made of," said McConnell, who scanned 14 golfers on-site Wednesday in Edison, N.J.
McConnell, of Charleston Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center, uses an X-ray body scanner made by GE Healthcare -- the machine, known as the iDXA system, costs up to $100,000 -- to give golfers specific data on body composition, such as percent body fat and lean muscle mass.
The information, delivered in a detailed five-page report along with a high-resolution image, can help golfers adjust their swings, alter their nutrition or training habits, and even lengthen their careers.
The body scans are part of a partnership between GE and the PGA Tour announced earlier this year. Sean O'Hair was one of the first golfers to use the technology at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, Fla., last spring.
"I think it's a huge tool to help you be better," O'Hair told reporters then.
McConnell said body scans are the next step in the evolution of studying body composition.
"For so long in this country, we've looked at body-mass index, height and weight tables, and it's just not accurate," McConnell said. "The whole concept of body composition, whether it's in golfers or other athletes, is to look at lean body mass, percent body fat and the distribution of body fat -- not only how much, but where exactly is it?"
The PGA Tour includes all sorts of body types, from the buff Tiger Woods to the lumpy John Daly, and everything in between. Some golfers will be intrigued by the data McConnell can provide; some won't want to know, he said.
"There really is no one ideal form," McConnell said. "You have bigger guys and smaller guys who have success. But we are seeing some differences and concern with where body fat and muscle mass is located in the left side of the body versus the right. Is there really a left versus right dominance in terms of swing mechanics?"
Furyk said that's an issue he discussed with his trainers for years.
"Now we can actually measure it," he told the New York Times. "I think there's going to be quite a few guys out here who are going to see a big imbalance. They'll realize it, get a tool to manage it and maybe prolong their career."
Said McConnell: "They can take this information and work with their trainers. Maybe they learn that they need to be working on their left quad or their left upper body for their turn. Without this information, they may not see the difference."
To get a body scan, a golfer lies down on a table beneath a curved arm that travels the length of the body, sending out bursts of low-dose X-rays. The whole process takes six to eight minutes.
"It's very low-dose radiation," McConnell said, "so you can get multiple scans without any concern."
In a sport where athletes are constantly tweaking their swings, their clubs and balls, and firing their caddies -- all in search of the slightest of advantages -- body composition is one more area that can provide an edge.
"At this level of the sport," McConnell said, "even a two or three percent difference in performance is huge."
Follow Jeff Hartsell on Twitter @Jeff_fromthepc.