Knee injuries and golf

Knee injuries count for about 10% of all golfing injuries. The twisting movement of the golf swing or simply squatting down to line up a putt or remove the ball from the hole can cause a tear through the knee cartilage (meniscus).

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A torn meniscus is a common knee injury often caused by a sudden twisting movement while putting weight on the knee but as we get older, the cartilage may also weaken and tear over time, and we may not even know it unless we develop symptoms. A minor tear following an injury or an existing cartilage tear that starts causing symptoms can often be managed with conservative treatment such as physiotherapy. If someone experiences a catching or locking sensation, is unable to straighten the knee and has frequent pain and problems with mobility, he or she may opt for an operation called a knee arthroscopy, in which the meniscus or part of the meniscus is removed. Another option is a meniscal repair, in which the torn cartilage is anchored to the bone and repaired. Playing golf can also aggravate pre-existing knee problems such as a torn cartilage or early arthritis.

Studies show that people who have a part of the cartilage removed are at greater risk of premature arthritis. So if a golfer has meniscus surgery, he or she should consider intensity of play, body mechanics and the benefit of targeted exercises prior to returning to the game to decrease the risk of early arthritis. Tips for Golfers with a Cartilage Injury Warming up, including basic exercises and stretching prior to play, has been shown to reduce the risk of injury. Hitting long-distance shots is more likely to aggravate symptoms. Consider initially clubbing down for shorter distance strokes including short irons or pitching wedges, as these are less likely to cause knee pain. Increased twisting or shearing forces across the knee can cause or exacerbate symptoms; using soft spikes may decrease these forces.

During set up, rotate the lead leg out to the side 20-40 degrees to reduce the amount of twisting and pressure on the knee during the final stages of swing Use a ball retriever to eliminate the need for deep squatting to retrieve the ball 18+ times each round. Use ice following each round for about 20 minutes. Use a towel or cloth; never put ice directly on the skin.