Old golfers don’t retire, they get new knees

Sandeep Chauhan

Keen golfer and consultant orthopaedic surgeon Sandeep Chauhan talks about golf, snakes and knee replacements

A Royal & Ancient referee once asked me: “If you play a tee shot and it lands in the rough next to a sleeping snake, what do you do?” Apparently, as the snake is not a fixed object, you would have to play your shot. Personally, I’d run!

But for golfers with arthritic knees, just getting around 18 holes, never mind running from a snake, is more than enough of a challenge. Apart from the burden of pain, the lack of stability in the knee reduces accuracy, power and general enjoyment of the game. Many golfers are not only forced to stop playing, but also find a general deterioration in the overall quality of their lives.

However, knee replacement surgery has helped many players to return to golf. Perhaps the most famous is the USA’s Fred Funk. In 2009 Fred had a total knee replacement using the Stryker Triathlon Knee. Nine months later he won the Jeld-Wen Championship, one of the Champions Tour’s premier events. This victory made him the first player having had total knee replacement surgery to win a PGA event.

For Fred, just as importantly as returning to golf, everyday activities such as walking, standing and sleeping were significantly easier and more comfortable.

There are several choices for treatment of arthritic knees, including partial and total knee replacement surgery. You should certainly discuss all the options with your GP or a knee specialist before making any decisions.

During surgery the arthritic part of the joint is removed and a new artificial joint is inserted. At Spring Orthopaedics, we have pioneered many of the latest procedures, including computer aided and minimally invasive surgery. We use advanced technology such as high flexion and gender specific replacement joints.

Sussex based Ladies County Golf Champion Aileen Greenfield suffered from arthritis of the inner part of her knee, which limited her general mobility and affected her game. She underwent partial knee replacement surgery three years ago and has since won two further County championships.

The return to golf should be gradual and with approval from your surgeon and physiotherapist. Judy McKemey, a physiotherapist from Hassocks and former Ladies Captain at Brighton & Hove Golf Club, says that it’s vital to have pre- and post-operative physiotherapy if you are having knee surgery in order to get proper guidance and optimum results.

When you are ready to get back to golf, I recommend you start with half a bucket of balls and gently swing some high irons before taking on nine and then 18 holes. Use spike-less shoes as they reduce the forces going through your knee and try to avoid playing in wet weather. Consider having a couple of lessons with the club pro to see if you can develop a more open stance and step through when you swing - both will reduce the force on your knee. Most importantly, start to enjoy your game again.