Preventing, treating golfer's knee

By Dr. Ken Andersen

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, April 17 2012 4:00 p.m. MDT

Even a player of Tiger Woods calabre can experience a knee injury while playing golf. The golf swing puts extra pressure on the joint, but there are things one can you to try to prevent injuries.

Sam Greenwood, Getty Images

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With spring time just around the corner, many golfers are looking for their first opportunity to get on the golf course. It is estimated in the United States there are approximately 27 million golfers.

Each year there are reported 13.5 million golf related injuries with 50 percent of these injuries becoming chronic conditions. Besides lower back pain, knee pain may also be common on the golf course.

An incorrect golf swing can produce compressive forces in the knee joint damaging the medial meniscus. The golf swing is a complex series of events that include the upswing, downswing and follow-though phases. The upswing requires the least amount of physical stress on the body, but tends to be the phase where most knee injuries occur. Balance and joint mobility are typically the most important factor in this phase.

The next phase, the downswing, is the most critical phase in the swing process and requires extreme coordination with the upper and lower body. Most injuries will happen in this phase due to poor body coordination in an unconditioned golfer.

The last phase, the follow-though, will account for about 25 percent of all golfing injuries. This phase is very taxing on the body due to the muscles trying to slow the body.

Several factors play a role when considering knee injury with golf. One important factor would be any preexisting knee injury or condition. Arthritis in the knee or previous knee surgery may be exacerbated due to the forces placed on the knees.

The knees undergo a great amount of force during a normal golf swing, with the forward knee producing 4.5 times the body weight and the opposite knee 3.2 times the body weight. Even though these forces are produced in an instant, there still is a possibility of injury, especially to a pre-existing knee injury. Here are some suggestion for injury prevention and treatment.

  1. Daily stretching. Flexibility is very important and will cut down on overall injuries. When focusing on the lower body you should address the quadriceps, IT-Band, hamstrings and gluteal muscles. Increasing your flexibility increases the motion and motion is the key to life. It is much easier to maintain flexibility than to regain flexibility.
  2. Strengthen your quadriceps muscles to help support the knee. When performed properly, lunges, step-ups and squats are excellent simple exercises to strengthen the knee. Prior to starting a program, one should get a proper evaluation from qualified chiropractor or physical therapist to identify any preexisting muscle imbalances.
  3. A knee brace for some golfers may help decrease/prevent pain in the knee. The compressive forces will help support the knee. An additional type of support would be kinseo taping for the knee. Kinseo taping will give the knee support while not limiting its range of motion.
  4. Following a round of golf, if you are experiencing knee pain you should apply ice. Pain is a sign of inflammation and ice will be the best treatment to reduce the pain. Put ice on the knee for 20 minutes then take it off for 90 minutes. The process then can be repeated.
  5. The best treatment is injury prevention. You are your best doctor so listen to your body. Make sure you are ready to play if you have previous knee or other trauma.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional if you have concerns regarding your health or before starting a new exercise program. Have a great summer of golfing.

Dr. Ken Andersen is a chiropractic physician at Andersen Chiropractic LLC in Sandy that specializes in spinal rehabilitation and treatment of the spine. He is also an adjunct member of Salt Lake Community College Biology Department.

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