Fitness Friday: Returning to Golf After Injury
Hospital for Special Surgery is the Official Hospital of the PGA of America. In an effort to keep golfers healthy and injury free on and off the course, HSS developed a golf-specific online tool called “Protect Your Game.” To access and share this injury prevention portal visit: www.hss.edu/hssgolf
Returning to golf after orthopedic surgery or injury is possible with the correct training but is dependent on the below factors:
- Range of motion of hips post-surgery
- Absence of lower back pain
- Clearance from your doctor
- Passing certain strength criteria, such as:
- Ability to go up and down stairs with good control
- Ability to stand on the affected side only
- Ability to squat
- Ability to get in and out of chair
For hip replacement patients who are back on the course, there are a few things you can do to improve golf posture to avoid putting pressure on your hip, depending on which is the affected side. If you are right-handed and injured your right hip, you put more pressure on the hip in your backswing. By lowering the height of the backswing, you can shift less weight on your affected right side. If you are right-handed and injured your left hip, you put more weight on the left side in your follow-through. In this case, try turning your foot slightly outward to give you more of a bias into rotation.
The time it takes to return varies for each patient and is dependent on two things. First, it is up to the doctor to give clearance. Patients will have hip precautions for approximately six weeks. Then, there will be another 6+ weeks of strengthening with physical therapy. One could potentially get back to swinging a golf club 12 weeks after surgery.
While the exercises vary for each patient, any golfer with a hip replacement should work on getting a good stable core. It is very important for the patient to be able to turn on the core at the right time. Glutal strengthening is also important as well as making sure there is sufficient rotation of the hips and spine.
There are some mechanical changes you can make going back on the course. Try not to start right away with the driver but instead with 7, 8 or 9 iron. These don’t take as much force – you tend to swing harder with the driver. If you had a left hip replacement, opening up your stance and turning your left foot outwards may help to give you more rotation.
To alleviate pressure on the spine, patients should work on core strengthening to make sure the motion of the spine is there. Ideally, your spine should have sufficient range of motion throughout your entire swing so compensations do not occur. If you have lumbar disc issues, you should create more of an anterior pelvis tilt. If you have stenosis issues, a posterior tilt is more helpful. This will allow for a more comfortable address position.
Of course, the first few swings will often have weight-shifting compensations. It is only natural to try not to put weight on your affected side. With the right physical therapist, it is possible to get back to your original swing – and maybe even a better one!
Gregory Reinhardt, PT, MSPT, has worked as a physical therapist at Hospital for Special Surgery since 2008. Greg has a specialized focus on hip and spine pathology and the rehabilitation of golfers.