Common Golfing Injuries
Knee Pain In Golfers
When we take our clubs into the backswing and rotate our body during the downswing, our leading leg (left knee in right-handed golfers) is subjected to high levels of torque and stress. This is especially so during the moment of impact between the club head and the ball.
As the swing is completed, the leading leg bears almost all the body weight and twists as we ensure a good follow-through for our swing. Repetition of the golf swing may lead to injuries around the knee namely meniscal tears, ligament sprains or ruptures of certain ligaments. Even the legendary Tiger Woods tore his left Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) with all the torque forces around his knee! Patients with underlying knee arthritis may also develop pain and stiffness in their knees.
How to prevent knee injuries in golf
Always warm up before hitting the balls
It is crucial that you do appropriate and adequate stretching exercises before and after your golf session. This includes your neck, lower back, shoulders, hips and knees. Swinging your clubs while your body is still stiff may lead to muscle strains and pain.
Reduce the number of balls you hit at the range
It is good to cut down the number of balls you hit at the range if you find yourself feeling sore after hitting a hundred balls or so. Spending more time with the short irons and less time with the driver can also help reduce the strain on your back and leading knee.
Consult a golf professional about your swing biomechanics and posture
Do specific exercises to strengthen your core muscles
It is important for your general health and fitness to visit the gym for strength training and core strengthening. Strong muscles help to protect your joints against injury, regardless of the sport you play.
What to do if you are a golfer with knee pain
As an avid golfer, I have also experienced knee pain on occasion. My go-to healing routine whenever this happens is the R.I.C.E. technique, followed by some anti-inflammatories like Arcoxia or Diclofenac to reduce the pain and inflammation.
- Anti-inflammatories (Arcoxia, Diclofenac, Naproxen)
An orthopaedic surgeon will conduct a thorough clinical examination of your knee to determine the exact location of your knee pain and exclude instability of the knee. An X-ray and MRI scan of your knee may also be done to exclude any serious knee injuries such as meniscal tears, ACL ruptures or cartilage wear.
What if I have a serious knee injury?
Most knee injuries may be treated conservatively with adequate rest, cold compression, and anti-inflammatory medication. For persistent and severe conditions, intra-articular injections with lubrication (viscosupplementation) or blood (platelet rich plasma (PRP), autologous protein solution (APS)) may help to temporarily relieve the pain and eventually accelerate your return to the sport.
Meniscus tears in the leading knee is a common golf-related knee injury. The meniscus is a shock absorber of the knee. Without it, the two bones in our knee (femur and tibia) will undergo accelerated wear and tear leading to early onset arthritis.
Tears of the meniscus will not heal by themselves due to poor blood supply. There is also a spectrum of simple and complex meniscal tears. Simple tears of the meniscus may be repaired using arthroscopic or key-hole techniques. Complex tears may be partially repaired or partially trimmed if they cannot be repaired. This is to prevent the tears from propagating and getting bigger.
Patients with moderate to severe knee arthritis which had been bothering them for a considerable period may consider a knee replacement to help with their long-standing knee pain, stiffness, and loss of function.
It is important to understand that knee replacements can help facilitate a patient’s return to a relatively active lifestyle, including moderate physical activity, prolonging their employment, going on holidays, and taking care of their loved ones.
Traditionally in knee replacement surgeries, patients are bed-bound for weeks. However, we encourage our patients to be up and about as soon as possible to prevent muscle weakening and atrophy.
Can I play golf after a knee replacement?
Some indications that you have recovered fully include:
- Your surgical wounds must have healed fully;
- The swelling in your knee should have resolved completely;
- The muscle strength in your thighs, calves and hamstrings must be restored and improved on;
- You must be able to walk comfortably and without difficulty on flat ground, slopes and stairs;
Above all, it is highly recommended to seek approval from your orthopaedic surgeon before you return to the golf range. Some factors that will be taken into consideration to allow you back on the golf course after a knee replacement include:
- Which knee was operated on? Your leading leg (left leg in a right handed golfer) or trailing leg?
- Do you walk (carry your own bag or use a trolley) or do you take a buggy through 9 or 18 holes?
Are you able to abandon walking and convert to a buggy halfway through a game?
- Is your local golf course relatively flat or hilly?
- What are your aims and goals when playing golf?
◇ Social golf with friends?
◇ To walk 18 holes and maintain general health and fitness?
◇ To maintain that long drive from the tee box?
◇ To maintain that single handicap that you’ve manage to keep for the last 10 years?
◇ To improve your golf game and handicap?
◇ To go on that long-awaited trip to St. Andrews and play on their famous links course?
orthopaedic surgeon will discuss with you the appropriate procedure for you based on your age, level of physical activity, type of sports and the extent of knee arthritis.
As a general rule of thumb, golfers normally return to golf after about 6 months, and they enjoy better golfing comfort with less pain, allowing them to play more frequently each month. Handicap scores are not known to change significantly after a knee replacement, and there is a low risk of the implants in the leading leg loosening after several years. This depends on many factors such as the type of implant used, frequency of play and the amount of stress individual golfers apply to their knee with each golf swing.