Although there are plenty of young people who really enjoy golf, and many seniors who love to play golf have healthy joints, there are quite a few golfers who have to undergo a knee replacement or hip replacement and then want to resume playing golf.
So, can you play golf after a hip or knee replacement?
Total joint arthroplasty, such as a total knee replacement or total hip replacement, typically is indicated in situations of severe or end stage osteoarthritis of the hip or knee.
Because osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition where the cartilage that normally coats the ends of the bones that make up a joint breaks down, severe osteoarthritis tends to be most common in seniors and older adults.
Therefore, because the demographics of recreational golf players is weighted heavily towards older adults and seniors, there is quite a bit of overlap in the population of golfers who need a knee replacement or hip replacement.
Returning to golf after a hip replacement or knee replacement can be a lengthy road, but the good news is that with patience and proper rehabilitation, you should be able to return to playing golf after a hip replacement or knee replacement.
In this article, we will discuss whether you can play golf after a hip or knee replacement, recommendations for how long you should wait after a knee or hip replacement to play golf, and tips for returning to golf after a hip or knee replacement.
We will cover:
- Can You Play Golf After A Hip or Knee Replacement?
- 9 Tips for Playing Golf after Knee Replacement or Hip Replacement
Let’s get started!
Can You Play Golf After A Hip or Knee Replacement?
If you have osteoarthritis in your knee or hip, but are an avid golfer, you might have reservations about getting a hip replacement for a knee replacement for fear that you will no longer be able to play the sport you enjoy so much.
Research suggests returning to golf following a total hip arthroplasty is safe. A survey of 72 surgeons from the Knee Society found that 92% of the surgeons did not discourage their patients from playing golf after a knee replacement.
However, although it is not guaranteed that you will be able to return to golf after a hip replacement or a knee replacement in every circumstance, the majority of golfers who have had a total joint replacement and want to get back to the sport are able to do so.
According to the above studies, the average time to return to play was 20.4 weeks after a knee replacement, and 5.4 months after a hip replacement.
Another thing to keep in mind is that if you are indeed a candidate for a hip replacement for knee replacement due to the severity of osteoarthritis you have in your joints, your golf game is likely already compromised.
In other words, you are probably already needing to make some amount of adjustments to your swing or having some degree of handicap with your game.
Therefore, even if rehabbing from a hip or knee replacement before you can play golf may be a lengthy journey, and may not ultimately result in a perfect swing with zero handicap, you will likely have much less pain.
This will allow you to enjoy the sport even more than you do now and improve your performance because you will no longer be limited by pain, decreased range of motion, and joint crepitus.
9 Tips for Playing Golf after Knee Replacement or Hip Replacement
Here are some tips for returning to golf after a hip replacement or knee replacement:
#1: Take Your Physical Therapy Seriously
Make sure that you work hard on your rehab in your physical therapy session.
Be upfront with your physical therapist about your desire to play golf after you have recovered, so that the physical therapist can help develop a post-op rehab program that is targeted towards helping you not only restore function for everyday activities, but also to be able to walk and properly swing a golf club.
#2: Warm Up
When you play golf after your knee replacement or hip replacement, get into the mindset that you want to help your body feel and perform as well as possible on the course.
Take a few minutes before teeing off at the first hole to perform a few mobility exercises to warm up your body and get your muscles and joints moving more fluidly.
Examples of good mobility exercises for golfers include pelvic tilts, golfer-stance thoracic spine rotations, gentle hip circles, windmills with your arms, and stork turns.
#3: Start With Putting
Don’t jump right back into playing a full 18 holes of golf after a hip or knee replacement.
You can slowly work your way back up to playing golf by starting with putting, chipping, and short shots.
These types of short, low-intensity, low-speed shots put much less stress, torque, and rotation on your knees and hips.
As you get further along in your rehab, you can start to increase your range of motion in the hips and knees, allowing you to work up to your full golf swing with long shots and drives.
#4: Strengthen Your Body
Strength training has numerous health and fitness benefits at any age, but is particularly important for older adults, since the body loses about 1% of your muscle mass and bone mass every year after the age of 40 or so.
Even if you do not have the time, motivation, or interest in going to the gym to lift weights, performing some basic resistance exercises several times per week can help you feel stronger on the golf course after having a joint replacement.
Depending on whether you are returning to golf after a knee replacement or hip replacement, you will want to focus on exercises that strengthen your hips, knees, and core muscles in all three planes: the sagittal plane for front-and-back motion, the frontal plane for side-to-side motion, and the transverse plane for rotation.
Examples of good basic strengthening exercises for golfers include monster walks with a resistance band around your ankles, lateral side steps using the same band, walking lunges, bodyweight squats, glute bridges, planks, bird dog, and quadruped hip extensions.
#5: Adjust Your Form
Standing a little more upright and turning your feet slightly outward can reduce twisting strain on your knees and hips.
#6: Use a Golf Cart
Although you might be able to walk the full course eventually, when you first start playing golf after a hip replacement or knee replacement, don’t let your ego get in the way of relying on using a golf cart.
You can still get out there and start practicing your swing and get back to honing your putting skills, but you won’t be overdoing it with the walking until you have built up enough strength.
You can slowly start progressing to how much walking you can do between holes, depending on the topography of the course, your current fitness level, and how many weeks it has been since your surgery.
#7: Build Up Gradually
Particularly once you start incorporating longer shots, build up gradually, starting with just 10 long drives or so per day.
If you feel okay over the next couple of days after playing, you can gradually increase the number per golf outing.
Of course, always be mindful of pain and swelling both while you are actively playing golf and in the day or so afterwards.
#8: Make Gear Adjustments
Wear soft-spike golf shoes if you are going to wear a spike in order to reduce the rotational forces on your knees and hips.
To that end, using short irons also will reduce the stress on your knees and hips. You should start with lighter clubs with flexible shafts when you are first getting back to golf after a knee or hip replacement. This, again, will reduce joint stress, particularly rotational torque on your knees and hips.
#9: Listen to Your Body
The single most important tip for playing golf after a hip or knee replacement is to listen to your body. It is always essential to use pain as your guide.
Some days you might feel better than others. Just because you were able to play nine holes one day, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t stop after six holes later on in the week if you are experiencing pain.
Always let pain be your guide and take rest or stop altogether if you are experiencing discomfort.
Bring any concerning symptoms or noticeable backslide in your progress to the attention of your physical therapist or surgeon for further evaluation.
Stay positive and patient; you should be able to enjoy golf after a knee or hip replacement, but it might take a little bit of time to get your game back where you would like it to be.