Knee Injuries in Golf

While knee injuries aren't the most common type of injury in golfers, they certainly can happen and they can really force you off of the course for a long period of time if severe. If you follow golf's most famous player, Tiger Woods, you will be familiar with how injuries have significantly slowed down his 2011 season. He has been recently been dealing with a possible meniscus (knee cartilage) issue as well as tendonitis in his achilles tendon. Tiger also suffered a more severe knee injury, an ACL tear, a few years ago. ACL tears are most common in contact sports such as football, but they can occur in golf as well.

One main thing to remember: Golf may not be the immediate cause of knee injury. Most of these injuries are aggravations of pre-existing conditions. These is especially true in older golfers who are less flexible and arthritis has likely set in.

First, a quick anatomy lesson. The knee joint is comprised of three bones: the femur (thigh), tibia (shin), and patella (knee cap). The knee is held together not only by many strong muscles, but by four main ligaments. The collateral ligaments are positioned along each side of the knee and the cruciate ligaments criss-cross inside the knee joint itself. The collateral ligaments are named medial (MCL) and lateral (LCL) while the cruciate ligaments are named anterior (ACL) and posterior (PCL).

The knee joint not only bends and straightens but it also can rotate. The knee is commonly injured during the golf swing whenever there is a large amount of force, or torque, placed through it. When the ligaments have more than they can handle, they either sprain (stretch) or tear. Tears will most likely lead to surgery, whereas the healing time for sprains depends on the severity.

Another structure that can be injured is the patella. Dislocation, and even the lesser subluxation, are rare with golf. This is good news because they can take a long time to heal! A more common knee injury involving the patella is when the cartilage present on the under side of it can soften or deteriorate. This is called chondromalacia. Common symptoms are tightness around the knee, pain, and crepitus (clicking, popping, and/or grinding). This can be treated with rest, bracing/taping, NSAIDS, and physical therapy.

Meniscus injuries are common with knee pivoting and rotation, and can happen with the golf swing. The menisci act mostly as shock absorbers for the knee. They deteriorate over time, especially with arthritis. Symptoms of a meniscus tear are pain, clicking/popping, locking, and giving away of the knee. Surgery is often indicated, and the most common procedure would be a menisectomy where the torn piece is simply removed. A meniscus repair is also possible, where the cartilage is sutured back together, but this is only an option in younger patients. Typical rehabilitation time following a menisectomy is 4-6 weeks. A meniscus repair will be significantly longer, >3 months, and more restrictions on your activity will be in place.

Hip injuries are not as common as some other areas in golf. The hip joint is very stable joint in relation to the knee or shoulder. The hip is very important for stability and generating rotation so it is important to strengthen and remain flexible.


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