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Tips for Golfers on Getting Back on the Green After ACL Surgery

Strength, Fitness, and Flexibility Are Key Factors to Tiger Woods’ Recovery and to Avoiding Future Injuries

With the announcement that Tiger Woods will take the remainder of the year off to undergo ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) surgery, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) offers consumers information on what to expect regarding recovery from this major knee surgery.

APTA spokesperson Bud Ferrante Jr, PT, OCS, MTC, who works with both professional and amateur golfers, says that full recovery from ACL surgery typically ranges from six to eight months when the ligament is completely healed. “Of course, every individual is different,” says Ferrante. “A typical golfer post ACL surgery could be back on the golf course as soon as six months following surgery — if the golfer works with a surgeon and Physical Therapist and follows the plan of care.”

The main goals of the first week post-surgery deal with controlling swelling, pain, and getting patients to start moving as soon as possible. Individuals who undergo surgery similar to Tiger’s often use crutches for the first week following surgery to limit the amount of weight-bearing on the knee and then progress to one crutch or a cane.

Physical Therapy typically starts immediately after surgery beginning with very gentle knee range of motion exercises. Depending on the extent of the swelling, a Physical Therapist will then work with patients who undergo surgery such as Tiger’s on progressive range of motion exercises that focus on regaining any lost knee motion. Once the knee is healed, and according to the physician’s protocol, the physical therapist would work on helping the patient strengthen the muscles around the knee, including the hamstring, and quadriceps muscles.

One of the most important things following ACL surgery is that patients avoid any type of twisting motions of the knee and not overdo the activity in the first few weeks of healing. The knee takes about four to six weeks to heal. If swelling increases, this could impede recovery. Post-surgical ACL patients need to be careful going down stairs and to avoid certain exercises such as knee extensions as both will place extra stress on the reconstructed ACL.

How To Avoid ACL Surgery

APTA says that awareness of proper posture and the importance of fitness and flexibility are just as important for weekend golfers as they are for the pros. Golfers should have access to a physical therapist who can assess their physical abilities and provide individualized training programs that address musculoskeletal balance, body mechanics, strength, posturing and cardiovascular fitness.

Just as in professional tennis, there has been a significant increase in injuries among professional golfers, primarily because the game has changed so drastically and training has become so intense. According to APTA, it is now the norm, not the exception, for professional men and women golfers to work with Physical Therapists on improving these factors. But, warns APTA, it is vital that these programs be tailored to their individual skills.

Professional golfers make it look easy, but the golf swing is actually one of the most difficult and complicated movements in all of sports, requiring stability in some joints and flexibility in others. Having proper motion, strength, and function throughout the swing play a large role in preventing injuries. The payoff of a better swing is a more accurate ball strike, greater distance, and reduced stress on the muscles and joints.

Physical Therapists are health care professionals who diagnose and manage individuals of all ages who have medical problems or other health-related conditions that limit their abilities to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives. Physical Therapists examine each individual and develop a plan of care using treatment techniques to promote the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability. Physical Therapists also work with individuals to prevent the loss of mobility by developing fitness- and wellness-oriented programs for healthier and more active lifestyles.