Golf is tremendously popular among older adults, but osteoarthritis can make playing golf difficult. Loss of motion in the hip and knee, decreased flexibility and pain can affect more than golf scores. Arthritis can decrease their quality of life. Millions of people undergo hip or knee replacement surgery to regain their activity with less pain. A large number of these people who play golf before surgery would like to hit the links after they recover from surgery. Is return to golf after a knee replacement or hip replacement surgery likely?
Golf after a knee replacement or hip replacement
An article published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine reviewed return to play data for patients who had hip or knee replacement surgery. Here are some of the key findings:
• 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. Interestingly, a higher percentage of patients who had a knee replacement in their lead legs (left leg) had pain than did patients who had surgery in the right leg (lag leg).
Opinions of hip and knee surgeons
A 2009 survey of members of the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons found that over 95% of members do not restrict patients who have a knee replacement from playing golf or other low-impact activities. Likewise, over 95% allow their patients with a hip replacement toplay golf after surgery.
Progression of golf activities
Dean N. Papaliodis and the other authors of the review article listed their guidelines for returning to golf after a joint replacement. Generally, patients progress with activities as they heal from the surgery and regain muscle strength and joint range of motion.
For hip replacement patients, they allow putting 4 to 6 weeks after surgery, light chipping between 6 to 10 weeks and driving at 12 weeks. Around four months after surgery, the patient can play a full round of golf, but use of a cart is encouraged early.
For patients recovering from knee replacement, the authors recommend putting at 4 to 6 weeks, light chipping between 6 and 10 weeks and use of irons and half swings with a driver from 10 to 12 weeks. They can use full swings with the driver at 12 weeks. By 6 to 10 months, patients can play golf after a knee replacement.
Papaliodis DN, Photopoulos CD, Mehran N, Banffy MB, Tibone JE. Return to Golfing Activity After Joint Arthroplasty. Am J Sports Med. 2016 Apr 26.
Swanson EA, Schmalzried TP, Dorey FJ. Activity recommendations after total hip and knee arthroplasty: a survey of the American Association for Hip and Knee Surgeons. J Arthroplasty. 2009;24(6 Suppl): 120-126.