A Golfers Guide to the Game after Joint Surgery
Arthritis can begin without pain, but already be causing significant deterioration of performance for the unaware golfer. Once arthritis has advance to the point that it is painful, more golfers notice how arthritis pain is affecting their golf game.
Arthroscopic surgery can often alleviate the pain, but many golfers hesitate out of fear that they will be unable to return to playing the sport that they love. However, according to “Return to Golfing Activity After Joint Arthroplasty” (published in the January 2017 issue of American Journal of Sports Medicine) joint arthroplasty can actually improve some players’ golf game.
Based on the studies summarized in the article, 90% to 100% of people return to playing golf after a joint surgery – from hobby players to amateur and professional competitors. An average improvement of 12 yards in drive length and a 1.4 to 5 decrease in handicap following arthroplasty has been supported, showing that not only does arthritis leads to substantial disability through pain and loss of motion, but arthroplasty surgery can allow a return to playing with a better golf game!
In arthroplasty, the interior of the joint is accessed with specialized tools via tiny access points. The most common use for arthroplasty is debridement of the interior of the joint, which entails removing bone spurs and floating bits of bone and cartilage. This cleans out any small pieces of debris that can cause friction and pain. Modern implants, or anchors, can mimic native anatomy and retie torn areas of the muscle, labrum, tendon, or other affected areas back to the underlying bone. This allows people to achieve normal or near normal motion.
Return to Play Guidelines for Golfers After Arthroscopic Surgery
Most patients make the return to golf a progressive one, starting with physical therapy, and advancing to various types of swings in stages. Putting may be allowed at the 2-month post-surgery mark, chipping at the 3-4 month mark, light swings at 4-6 months, and driving soon thereafter.
Before your first full game, make sure that you have been cleared for play by your surgeon. Typically this will be between 6 months and 12 months after surgery. If you have pain, you aren’t ready to return to play. Continued pain signals that tissues are overstressed and not fully healed. Continue physical therapy until you are pain free.
Work closely with your physical therapist and orthopedic surgeon. They can help you maximize your recovery and get you back on the green as soon as possible!