Getting back into the swing of things

In one swift movement, Ray Hooker unleashes a backswing that sends a little white ball soaring — using just one arm.

Registered physiotherapist and founder of Therapeutic Golf Rehabilitation Sari Shatil

Registered physiotherapist and founder of Therapeutic Golf Rehabilitation Sari Shatil

TORONTO — In one swift movement, Ray Hooker unleashes a backswing that sends a little white ball soaring — using just one arm.

It’s a remarkable feat in its own right. Not too long ago, it seemed a virtual impossibility.

In 2008, Hooker suffered a massive stroke that resulted in extensive paralysis to the right side of his body.

When occupational therapist Elaine Chan met Hooker last fall, he was in a wheelchair. Less than a year later, the 63-year-old is now able to walk with a cane and stand without assistance.

What’s more, he’s returned to the links, back at the game he’s been playing regularly since he was 50. But in Hooker’s case, golf has become much more than recreation. A unique partnership between health-care professionals is integrating core elements of the game with rehabilitation and physical therapies. A customized program is helping him get back into the swing of things on and off the fairway.

Hooker’s therapists at Toronto’s St. John’s Rehab Hospital have partnered with a London, Ont.-based physiotherapist who pioneered a program that uses golf as a rehabilitation tool.

Sari Shatil is founder of Therapeutic Golf Rehabilitation, which uses the game to help individuals improve steadiness, balance and flexibility in addition to strength and fitness. Exercise and manual therapy techniques also help people better perform the movements that golf requires.

Shatil said the idea behind the golf rehab concept first came to her following her work with patients while at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

“People were coming out of brain surgery or coming out with paralysis and injuries and they were saying to me, the physiotherapist: ‘I don’t care if I ever walk again, but get me to the golf course,”’ she recalled.

“Then I started thinking: ‘What do we do in therapy?’ We try to encourage people who’ve had strokes to use both sides. We work on balance by weight transfer. We strive for rotational components of movement. And all of these components that we would naturally do in rehab to achieve goals of walking are part of swinging a golf club.”

Intensive sessions at St. John’s Rehab with Elaine Chan and physiotherapist Araceli Landaburu helped Hooker regain his mobility. Strengthening exercises, stepping and balance activities were part of the rehabilitation and recovery process.

In March, Chan first started exploring incorporating golf into Hooker’s therapy — albeit in virtual form — through playing the game on Wii.

By the time he was ready to play Wii golf, Chan said Hooker had adequate standing balance and tolerance that she felt would allow him to hit the ball around outside, which they would try a month later.

“He got really excited,” Chan recalled. “At that point his goals, which initially were just being able to stand and walk because he wasn’t even able to stand unsupported when he came down to us, changed from that to . . . going back onto the golf course.”

Landaburu had previously worked with fellow physiotherapist Shatil and recalled that she had developed an expertise in therapeutic golf. With Hooker’s desire to get back on the green and his enthusiasm for the game, Shatil was brought on board, allowing his therapists to consult her for advice connected to helping his golf skills.

During a recent visit to St. John’s Rehab, Shatil was helping Hooker work on the goal of improving his distance in his golf game which, in turn, could help further strengthen the core skills needed for everyday mobility.

Part of the session involved monitoring the symmetry of his stance to ensure he was equally distributing weight throughout his body, and challenging his weaker or affected side.

The pair also worked on Hooker’s control of the club on the top of the backswing, ran through drills to test his speed and balance, and worked on hip turns to help give distance to the ball through his golf swing.

Hooker said having the ability to put the skills into practice beyond hospital walls makes a big difference.

“Everything you do in the hospital is a very controlled situation, but as soon as you hit the outdoors you are susceptible to the environment so your balance, your overall performance, everything to do with outside improves dramatically,” he said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Advocate file photo)
Lacombe man to apply to withdraw manslaughter guilty plea

Tyler John Campbell wants to change plea after judge rejected seven-year sentence

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine being prepared at the COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the University of Toronto campus in Mississauga, Ont., on Thursday, May 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
Canada to get two million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses as provinces expand rollouts

OTTAWA — Canada is scheduled to receive two million doses of the… Continue reading

Members of the Sipekne'katik First Nation load lobster traps on the wharf in Saulnierville, N.S., after launching its own self-regulated fishery on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
U.N. committee to consider racism complaint of N.S. Mi’kmaq fishers against Ottawa

HALIFAX — A United Nations committee on racial discrimination is asking the… Continue reading

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. Canada's chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Tam warns that full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Canada’s chief public health officer reminded Canadians on Saturday that even those… Continue reading

In this image taken from video by the FDNY, pedestrians hurry away from the scene of a shooting in Times Square, Saturday, May 8, 2021, in New York. New York City police say three innocent bystanders including a 4-year-old girl who was toy shopping have been shot in Times Square and officers are looking for suspects. All the victims are expected to recover. (FDNY via AP)
NYPD officer: 4-year-old shooting victim ‘didn’t even cry’

NEW YORK — A 4-year-old girl who was shot in the leg… Continue reading

Pumpjacks pump crude oil near Halkirk, Alta., June 20, 2007 .A flurry of stock sale financings by oil and gas producers in Canada has sparked optimism among investors that the stalled drilling industry will soon go back to work. But analysts warn that’s not likely to happen this year, THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal
Ensign Energy Services reports $43.6M Q1 loss, revenue down 43 per cent from year ago

CALGARY — Ensign Energy Services Inc. reported a loss attributable to common… Continue reading

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex speaks at "Vax Live: The Concert to Reunite the World" in Inglewood, Calif. on May 2, 2021, left, and Oprah Winfrey appears at the 75th annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, Calif. on Jan. 7, 2018. Winfrey and Prince Harry are teaming up for a series that will delve into mental health issues and feature segments from athletes and stars like Lady Gaga and Glenn Close. The streaming service Apple TV+ plus announced Monday that the multi-part documentary series “The Me You Can’t See” will debut on May 21. (AP Photo)
Oprah, Prince Harry reunite for Apple TV+ mental health show

LOS ANGELES — Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry are teaming up for… Continue reading

The Weeknd attends the LA premiere of "Uncut Gems" in Los Angeles on Dec. 11, 2019. The Weeknd will celebrate his whopping 16 nominations at the Billboard Music Awards with a performance at the show. Dick clark productions announced that the pop star will hit the stage at the May 23 event. It will air live on NBC from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
Top nominee The Weeknd to perform at Billboard Music Awards

NEW YORK — The Weeknd will celebrate his whopping 16 nominations at… Continue reading

Serena Williams walks past her coach Patrick Mouratoglou during a training session at the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Monday, May 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Serena Williams returning after ‘very intense’ training

ROME — Forget all that speculation about Serena Williams considering retirement after… Continue reading

In this Nov. 17, 2020, file photo, IOC President Thomas Bach visits the National Stadium, the main venue for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games postponed until July 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, in Tokyo. Bach has canceled a trip in May 2021 to Japan because of surging cases of COVID-19 in the country, the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee said Monday, May 10, 2021 in a statement. The trip was made impossible because of a state of emergency in Tokyo and other parts of the country that has been extended until May 31. (Behrouz Mehri/Pool Photo via AP, Fo;e)
IOC’s Thomas Bach cancels Japan trip because of virus cases

TOKYO — IOC President Thomas Bach has cancelled a trip to Japan… Continue reading

Quebec Premier Francois Legault chairs a premiers virtual news conference as premiers John Horgan, B.C., Jason Kenney, Alberta, and Scott Moe, Saskatchewan, are seen onscreen, Thursday, March 4, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Several provinces bring in new restrictions as high COVID-19 case numbers persist

Several provinces are gearing up to tighten public health measures once again… Continue reading

Members of the RCAF take part in a Royal Canadian Air Force change of command ceremony in Ottawa on Friday, May 4, 2018. The Royal Canadian Air Force is hoping Canada will open its doors to military pilots from other countries as it seeks to address a longstanding shortage of experienced aviators. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
RCAF turns to foreign pilots to help with shortage as commercial aviators stay away

OTTAWA — The Royal Canadian Air Force is hoping Canada will open… Continue reading

An arrivals and departures information screen is seen at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport in Halifax on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018. The chief executive of Atlantic Canada's largest airport is hoping for COVID-19 testing for arriving passengers "sooner rather than later," as an added measure to combat the province's third wave of the virus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Halifax airport CEO hopes for more on-site COVID testing ‘sooner rather than later’

HALIFAX — The chief executive of Atlantic Canada’s largest airport is hoping… Continue reading

Most Read