Athletic injuries are common occurrences for both the recreational and competitive golfer. Repetitive motion, muscle imbalances, joint stiffness, and pounding forces can leave the athlete’s body at risk for wear and tear and susceptible to injury. Conservative treatment, such as rest, recovery, and physical therapy, can be very effective. But sometimes, injuries lead to surgery.
For every golfer that has endured surgery, the question is always the same…when can I return to playing? How can I do this as quickly as possible?
Your surgeon will be able to provide vital information about the details of your surgery and anticipated outcomes. They can provide time frames needed for the joint to heal in order to safely return to your sport. For example, Dr. David Geier, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine, recently summarized an article from the American Journal of Sports Medicine, writing “A study of 66 golfers who had a hip replacement found that 57 returned to play golf by an average of 5.4 months after surgery. 54% said that their golf game improved. Handicaps did increase by roughly 10 strokes in the month after the patients returned to play. Another study looked at 83 active golfers who underwent a total knee arthroplasty (knee replacement). They returned to play golf at an average of 20.3 weeks. They had a slight increase in handicap and decrease in drive length. Almost half thought that hitting their drives was easier after surgery.”
After your surgery, a physical therapist plays a vital role to guide you through your rehabilitation.
Immediate Post-Operative Phase
- Physical therapist provides one-on-one patient care, including advanced manual therapy treatment to decrease swelling and restore joint motion
- Monitors incision/scar healing
- Instructs in strategies to help normalize movement patterns (for example: if you have had surgery on your leg, your therapist will instruct you how to use devices such as crutches to restore normal walking patterns)
- Prescribes a specific exercise regimen, individually tailored to each client based on their needs, to begin restoring muscle strength
- Communicates directly with your surgeon regarding your progress
Restore to Function Phase
- Physical therapist progresses your rehabilitative exercises to restore functional movements, such as kneeling, squatting, stair climbing, reaching, pulling, or carrying.
- It is crucial that your physical therapist work with you directly to observe and provide feedback while restoring these functional movements, as they provide the foundation necessary to progress to the final phase of rehab.
Return to Sport Phase
- Physical therapist conducts specific return-to-sport testing. For golf, this will include testing the involved joint and it’s overall ability to perform driving, putting, walking the course, carrying your golf bag, etc.
- Your physical therapist provides guidelines for return to hitting…for example, you may start with pitching wedges and hit 30 balls. When you can perform this task with efficient swing mechanics and no pain, your therapist will progress you to the next phase, until your swing has been fully restored.
- Strength and power training, not only for the injured joint but for the full body. After weeks and months of being away from golf, your body will experience some level of deconditioning.
In the recent case report “Return to Golf Following Total Hip Arthroplasty in a Golfer Who is Right Handed,” physical therapist John D’Amico and others investigated the overall effects a total hip replacement had on one of their patients. After surgery and working with a physical therapist, their patient significantly increased his lead hip range of motion and strength, increased his core stability, improved his ability to balance on one leg, and eliminate his swing fault!
This is a great example of what your surgeon and physical therapist can help you to achieve…to improve your physical performance, get back to playing golf at the highest level possible as quickly as possible, and improving your overall quality of life.
- http://www.drdavidgeier.com/golf-after-hip-knee-replacement/ D’Amico, J. Return to Golf Following Left Total Hip Arthroplasty in a Golfer Who is Right Handed. North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. 2007 Nov; 2(4): 251–261.