Knee pain, the bane of golfers

By DR BARRY KLUNER / Pic By AFP

Golfers at all levels and across every age range can fall prey to common injuries associated with the game. What may seem surprising is that knee pain is one of the most common golf-related injuries.

Golf is not a contact sport, making golf a great low-impact movement potential, which, if managed well, can be played for many years to come. However, just like other athletes, golfers are certainly at risk for injury, especially when early onset issues like mild knee pain are neglected.

Pain itself is our natural warning system, an indicator that something may be going wrong and should be looked into before it gets much worse. Golfers tend to ignore “mild” or early onset symptoms more than other
athletes.

Paying better attention to early knee symptoms can not only prevent bigger knee problems, but will likely keep you on the course rather than taking you off, due to lengthy care programmes or knee surgery, followed by lengthy recovery time.

There are many reasons why the knee is easily injured from playing golf. Faulty swing technique, lack of core stability and trunk flexibility, bad posture, lack of dynamic warm-ups, flat feet, lower spine problems, and so much more. If you take a closer look though, you may find that poor habits are at the centre of the overall situation.

Of course, you have the game itself, which puts an enormous torque and force demand on the muscles and joints, making golfers high-risk candidates for many types of injury. For many, knee problems begin as a simple muscle stress leading to fatigue and eventual movement dysfunction.

The problem lies in the tendency for many golfers to ignore mild knee discomfort, which often shows up in the kneecap, or just below the knee. Continue to play and it will lead to overuse and more dysfunctional motion over time.

Eventually, something has to give. The most common tissue injury of the golfer’s knee is a medial meniscus tear, where the cartilaginous meniscus is designed to act as a shock absorber to the overall knee joint.

When damaged, the knee joint loses its ability to properly absorb torque and force, causing a higher compression load instead. Once damaged, the game changes

By design, the knee is a hinge-type joint, drawing stability from nearby muscles, ligaments and cartilage. The larger muscles of the upper leg (hamstrings and quadriceps), outer and inner ligaments (medial and lateral collaterals), and the front and back ligaments (anterior and posterior cruciates) of the knee work together to absorb the torque and forces generated when performing a swing.

Specifically, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) helps prevent the shin bone (tibia) from excessive forward gliding, relative to the upper thigh bone (femur). While cruciate ligaments (particularly the ACL) provide rotational stability to the knee, they are prone to injury. However, it is far more common for golfers to suffer from meniscal tears.

The meniscus is a double C-shaped cushioning cartilage within each knee, one laying medially, the other laterally. It serves as the main shock absorber for your knee joint. When torn, the cushioning potential decreases and the compressive loads increase, eventually wearing down the knee joint and causing arthritis.

There are many reasons why the meniscal tissue can tear. Some golfers play a heavy power shot with a powerful swing technique, repetitively increasing load to the knee joint. Others have trauma and old injuries to the knee that contribute to ongoing deterioration of the meniscus, making wear and tear inevitable.

So, how do you know if you have a torn meniscus? Here is a list of common symptoms:

• Pain on either the inner or outer sides of your knee (most common);

• Swelling or inflammation of your knee;

• Faulty motion of the knee;

• Giving out when you walk;

• Locking or catching of your knee during motion.

If you suspect that you have a meniscus tear, visit your orthopaedic specialist for a thorough assessment to determine the extent of any damage and whether surgical intervention or conservative management is your best approach.

Preventing a knee injury will certainly save you a lot of undue stress. Prevention requires core stability,
flexibility routines and lower extremity strengthening exercises. Core stability exercises help keep your lower back and posture actively stable during your daily activities, both on and off the course.

A stable core region keeps your pelvis neutral and your posture upright, decreasing imbalanced pressure to
your knees. Flexibility routines like stretching your major leg muscles pre and post play make a dramatic difference in the repetitive movement potential of your knee when performing a swing.

Regular chiropractic care provides necessary support for preventing both spinal and knee injuries, from golf
and beyond. Chiropractors source the areas of dysfunction and work to correct bio-mechanical dysfunction,
so your spine continues to move smoothly, while protecting your spinal cord and nerves.

A healthy spine promotes a healthy body. Proper alignment keeps your joints working well too, so you can enjoy your time on the course and reduce the risk of injury overall.

If you do suffer a meniscal tear and surgery becomes a necessity, chiropractic care helps boost the recovery programme as well by keeping your spinal system healthy along the way, so your body can reach its greatest potential from your rehabilitation programme.

Keeping the lower spine, legs and knees stable will certainly keep you healthy and active on the course for years to come.