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Berrece Andrews
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GOLF ADVICE

(Feature 1)

Keys to Keeping Your Body
and Golf Game on Par

Orthopaedic surgeons offer tips for golfers to avoid injury on the green and ways to get back on course after a joint replacement

Rosemont, Ill. -- Golf can be played competitively or just for leisure, and for professional players on the 2010 PGA Tour, the game is probably a combination of both.  The game demands skill and physical discipline because improper technique can lead to discomfort, minor injury, or even joint replacement. Whether on the golf course or at the driving range, your swing and technique can make or break a game, and in many cases, help avoid or cause pain. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) recommends that golfers maintain proper form and take it slow when playing golf to avoid injury and to stay on par.

  • According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), more than 115,000 Americans were treated for golf-related injuries in 2009.
  • Golfers most often suffer from hand tenderness or numbness; shoulder, back and knee pain; golfer’s elbow; and wrist injuries, such as tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Over 360,000 men and women, ages 45 to 64 had a total hip replacement or total knee replacement in 2008, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

“Golfers – especially beginners, who haven’t learned proper techniques yet – are more susceptible to injuries from overuse and poor mechanics,” said orthopaedic surgeon Alexander Raskin, MD. “It’s important for golfers to regularly participate in a muscle conditioning program to reduce the risk of common golf injuries.”

In an effort to reduce golf injuries, many of which are treated by orthopaedic surgeons, the AAOS recommends the following golf injury-prevention tips:

  • Dress for comfort and make sure to wear the appropriate golf shoes; short cleats are best on the course.
  • Do not hunch your neck or shoulders over the ball; it may predispose you to neck strain and rotator cuff tendonitis.
  • To avoid golfer’s elbow, caused by a strain of the muscles in the inside of the forearm -- perform wrist and forearm stretching exercises and try not to overemphasize your wrists when swinging.
  • To avoid lower back pain caused by a poor swing -- try rowing and/or pull down exercises to improve flexibility and muscle strength.

Those who are recovering from a joint replacement should take additional precautions as they transition back into their golf game.

“As an orthopaedic surgeon and an avid golfer who underwent a knee replacement three years ago, I have a realistic grasp on the recovery process,” said orthopaedic surgeon Francis Burns Kelly, MD. “People who are trying to get back on the course after a joint replacement must listen to their body if they are experiencing any pain or discomfort.  It’s so important for them to ease into the game until they are back to full strength.”

To return to golf after hip or knee replacement, the AAOS suggests the following safety guidelines below:

  • Always warm up and stretch well before playing, but avoid undue strain on your replaced joint.
  • Get back into the game slowly. Begin with chipping and putting before hitting irons and then woods.  Also, it is best to play just nine holes initially; once this can be done comfortably you can try a full 18.
  • Use a riding cart initially. Those who like to walk while playing should wait until they can play comfortably with a cart and then try walking. It’s best to use a pull cart rather than carrying your bag.
  • Be aware of weather conditions; wet weather can predispose you to falls, especially when the legs are still weak.
  • Use “soft spikes” (required by most courses now) or even tennis shoes (if ground is not wet). This will reduce torque on the hip and knee.
  • Don’t get frustrated when you resume playing. You may not hit the ball as far as you did prior to surgery because the leg will be weak; this will get better as strength returns.
  • Be careful about squatting down to line up a putt. This can put too much pressure on the knee and could possibly cause a dislocation of a hip prosthesis.
  • Continue a regular exercise program to maintain as much strength in the leg as possible.

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