Golf may seem like a harmless game for your knee joint, because the sport primarily involves movements of the shoulder and arm. The golf swing is actually a complex movement that involves flexibility in some joints and stability in others. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is an important ligament that stabilizes the knee joint during movements such as rotation of the leg. Although golf has a low likelihood of causing an ACL injury, there has been an increase in such injuries with changes to the game and an increased intensity of training. Tears can occur under the impact of a powerful swing and usually involve the lead leg that is used during a strike.
The following can minimize the chances of an ACL injury during golf:
- Take care on uneven terrain, especially downhill and climbing in and out of a sand trap.
- Try to avoid a large lateral swing.
- Control swing rotations by maintaining strength of the hip and knee muscles.
- Avoid a closed stance position and reduce the stress on the knee.
- Be aware of proper posture, your fitness and flexibility.
- Maintain a slightly open posture, with your leg rotated outward by about 30° along the target line to avoid excess pressure on your knee.
Treatment of an ACL injury is usually reconstructive surgery. The torn ligament is replaced by a tendon taken from another part of your body. A complete recovery from surgery to sport takes 4 to 6 months.
If you do undergo surgery, you may continue to play golf only after complete rehabilitation and recovery to avoid further injuries. You will work with a physical therapist to better understand your physical abilities and design individual training programs that take into consideration body mechanics, musculoskeletal balance, cardiovascular fitness and strength. To ensure complete restoration of strength in the thigh, hip and core muscles, take extra care with the above precautions.
A concerted effort to maintain optimum strength, flexibility and motion through a single swing are key to a perfect stroke with no injuries.
Dr. Domb is a nationally recognized orthopaedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine and arthroscopic surgery of the hip, shoulder and knee. A noted pioneer in advanced new techniques in hip arthroscopy, he delivers innovative treatments for patients with hip injuries such as impingement and labral tears. Dr. Domb is also an expert in arthroscopic surgery of the shoulder and knee, adept in specialized techniques including arthroscopic rotator cuff repair and all-inside ACL reconstruction.