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Jonathan Cluett, M.D.

Don't Play Golf After Knee Replacement

By March 10, 2008

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This may be a disturbing statement to some patients, as many people with knee replacements are avid golfers. So why should you not golf after a knee replacement? According to a new study presented at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons annual meeting, playing golf places higher stresses on knee replacement implants than jogging.

We all know that knee replacements need to be taken care of as they will hopefully last a patient's lifetime. However, some activities take a higher toll on the implanted joint. Among the best activities for knee replacements, according to the study, are cycling and walking on a treadmill.

What about you? Did you play golf after knee replacement? What activities do you do with a knee replacement? Leave your comments below.

Related: Knee Replacement Surgery | Knee Replacement in Young Patients

Sources: 75th annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, San Francisco, March 5-9, 2008.

Image © Denise Kappa

Comments
March 10, 2008 at 1:20 pm
(1) Donkaloosa says:

I rode my horse after having had both knees replaced; just recently stopped that because of my realizing just how bad a fall would be. Cycling is out for me (except on a stationary bike)because of other arthritis problems. I’m swimming laps now, but that is blowing out my shoulders. I walk my dogs when the weather is good, but have to avoid hills and bad footing.

May 5, 2008 at 3:50 am
(2) Elva says:

My first knee was replaced 2006 and 6 months later had the other done 2007. I would like to play golf but am now unsure after reading the above article. I’m and 60 years old. What should I do??

May 5, 2008 at 7:25 am
(3) orthopedics says:

There’s no right answer, as it’s certainly important to get ample exercise and stay active–and for many people, that means golfing.

As the study states: “This is not to say that [knee replacement] patients have to eliminate jogging, golfing or tennis, but they should consider modifying those activities will lessen the impact on their knees.”

Therefore, try to find activities that are less stressful on knees, and incorporate those into your schedule as well.

Jonathan Cluett, MD
About Orthopedis

July 26, 2008 at 2:00 am
(4) don rumbold says:

I had my knee replaced 2 years ago . I have just started skiing again, and playing Golf , Hikeing, and I ride my bike.I am 70 years old, I must admit my knee hurts a wee bit at times still but not has much hs it did befor I had me op. if it needs doing do it .

September 16, 2008 at 12:41 am
(5) ray says:

Ive been doing 5km runs 3 times a week and cycling 20km twice a week for the last 5 years, but it swells a bit sometimes, is this normal.

September 22, 2008 at 4:00 pm
(6) LARRY says:

I WAS PALYING GOLF SIX WEEKS AFTER SURGERY. MY DOCTOR IS AN AVID GOLFER AND HE STATED TO DO DO ANYTHING I FELT LIKE DOING. IT HAS BEEN SIX MONTHS SINCE REPLACEMENT AND I PLAY GOLF THREE DAYS A WEEK. NO PROBLEMS

September 30, 2008 at 5:44 pm
(7) orthopedics says:

To all,

Keep in mind, the study does not say you can’t play golf! The study simply looks at the burden placed on the implanted joint, and which activities seem to cause the most stress.

Think of your replaced joint like a set of car tires. If you want the tires to last for a long time (as you want your joint replacement to last) you might opt to drive on normal roads under normal conditions–not off road like a race car driver.

Each individual needs to decide what is best for him or herself, in consultation with their own surgeon. However, joint replacements do wear out over time, and having a second replacement is a much bigger surgery.

Good luck!

Jonathan Cluett, M.D.

January 12, 2009 at 7:35 pm
(8) Karen says:

I had my TKR 3 years ago and was back on the golf course 3 months after surgery. I hike and play golf 5-6 days a week and I always walk the course, pushing my cart. I even made the ladies golf team this past year, a goal I never thought I would reach after my surgery. I say go for it and enjoy life every day!

June 13, 2009 at 7:19 pm
(9) Ken Monvillle says:

It’s been about 5 years since I had a total knee (right) replacement. I play golf; but, pay for it for a couple of days afterwards. I love to play and do not plan to stop; but, if I was advising someone I’d say take up fishing.

June 18, 2010 at 2:37 pm
(10) keith says:

I had my left knee replaced 18 months ago. i was playing golf 4 months after the surgery. i just had a partial done on my right knee and hope to be playing 6 weeks post surgery. the knee feels good, but i also do a lot of physical therapy to get it back in shape and strong. i have had zero problems playing golf after knee replacement. After all, isn’t the reason we have the surgery to get things back that we could no longer do ?

June 19, 2010 at 5:09 pm
(11) orthopedics says:

Keith,

Again, see my comments above. The study does not say that you cannot play golf. In fact, I have yet to meet a patient who wants to play golf after a knee replacement, and says they cannot. Furthermore, I agree, the whole point of a joint replacement is to keep people able to remain active.

That said, we know that certain activities may lead to a joint replacement wearing out more quickly. Therefore, many doctors recommend avoiding activities that may accelerate the need for revision joint replacement surgery.

Patients who have a joint replace should understand these concerns, and then make an educated decision. If playing golf is worth the risk of wearing out a joint replacement more quickly, then hit away!

Good luck!

Jonathan Cluett, MD

July 6, 2010 at 10:14 am
(12) Jim B says:

Glad to have read this article. My bilateral tkr was almost 9 years ago. I love golf though I am terrible at it. I had a rotator cuff and other shoulder repair done 4 years ago, so my golf again took a time off. Now, when I try to play I seem to ‘tweak’ my left knee.
So I have decided to give it up permanently, especially after reading the report. I am an avid road cyclist, ride a mountain bike, fly fish as well. So I guess I have enough to do at age 68.
thanks

July 6, 2010 at 2:03 pm
(13) Edgar says:

I’m 74 years old. I’ve been playing golf now for 21/2 years now after partial bilateral knee replacements and have had absolutely no pain or felt any stress whatsoever. As a matter of fact, I can now play 3 to 4 days a week and my game is coming back. So far, so good. I will continue to monitor my knees, however, and will either quit or moderate my activites if I detect even the hint of pain before, during or after a round. Life is good!

July 15, 2010 at 4:17 pm
(14) Joe Truckey says:

I was told by my Doctor that the Knee replacements last longer than they use to. Plus, if you need to have it done again it is much easier because all they would need to do is replace the cusion part and leave the same replacement in. So, I do not have to have this pain any longer, but may need to go back in the future to have my tires changed. I think that would be worth it to play now.
Currently 51 years old.

July 27, 2010 at 12:44 am
(15) MCA says:

What knee is more likely to be adversely affected- the back or lead knee as the stresses are different on each. I would guess the lead knee takes more stress as it is the one you turn around with the foot fully planted.

Are there prosthetics that would be more likely to hold up with golf?

April 19, 2011 at 2:19 am
(16) Linda says:

I hurt my knee 2 months ago and they are doing shots . took 2nd one today. said he would rather let it heel on its own but he said if I could not walk far and maybe get a handicap flag for the golf cart I could play..there alot of big hills and slopes on the golf courses now. that is one things that really hurts my knee (going up and down stairs and hills.
How do I get that flaf legally please

May 5, 2011 at 10:29 pm
(17) Doug Hansen says:

Some of these answers bring up a big question. Is pain or lack thereof and indicator of replacement wear or lack thereof. I have always assume that it is and one can monitor wear that way.

But can they? Or can there be a “terminal surprise” at some point.

I am close to needing knee replacement with bone on bone issues in both knees as well as notable valgus deformation (knock knees) in especially the right which is the older arthritic site and veteran of three scopes since age 36 in 1989.

I am very active in cycling and golf and primarily look to Bi-lateral TKR to extend my golfing years now at 59.

May 7, 2011 at 1:02 pm
(18) Jim says:

Dear Jonathan -

You write: “Keep in mind, the study does not say you can’t play golf! The study simply looks at the burden placed on the implanted joint, and which activities seem to cause the most stress.”

Why, then, did you title the article “Don’t Play Golf After Knee Replacement”?????

Respectfully,

jkendall3

May 7, 2011 at 1:21 pm
(19) orthopedics says:

Dear Jkendall,

Many people confuse the results of this study thinking it says they “can’t” play golf or are “unable” to play golf. Neither is true. The study simply states that playing golf may lead to faster wear of knee replacement implants.

This is one study that says playing golf places high stress on joint replacement implants, and therefore, you probably shouldn’t play a lot of golf if you want your knee to last as long as possible.

You can argue that the study was flawed, or that their methodology was incorrect, but the bottom line from this study was that people with knee replacements shouldn’t play golf if they want their implants to last as long as possible.

As a golfer, it is up to the individual to make an informed decision as how best to balance their fitness/enjoyment with a knee replacement implant that may not last forever. Take the data from this study and do what you and your doctor determine to be the most appropriate.

Regards,

Jonathan Cluett MD
About Orthopedics

May 17, 2011 at 11:11 am
(20) Chuck J says:

I had a right tkr 6 years ago, and continue to play golf. Just use some common sense – I ride a cart and no longer walk – saves wear and tear on the joint. If I hit a ball into an area with unstable footing (for example a ravine with rocks) the ball stays there and I drop another. Limit the back swing rotation and follow through. Some fellow golfers claim I’m “not really playing golf” because of the adjustments I’ve made but I play golf for my enjoyment, not theirs. I’m only 58 so most likely there is a revision surgery in my future, but I’m going to put it off as long as possible.

July 18, 2011 at 12:46 am
(21) Doug Hansen says:

I have spoken to many ortho-pods about this, as I am anticipating knee replacements.

To a person, they all say, “yes you can play golf after TKR”.

You are pretty much out on your own on this one, doc.

July 18, 2011 at 6:14 pm
(22) orthopedics says:

Dear Doug,

I don’t disagree. I am in the minority here. But I do believe in informing patients, and allowing them to make their best decision. I have many patients who choose to play golf after knee replacement–they are able to make that decision.

But I also believe in giving patients the best information available, not just my opinion. There is very little science about sports after knee replacement, but this is a good study. Ask your doctor if he or she recommends patients jog after knee replacement… If they say no, ask why? Because, according to the data, jogging places less stress on a knee replacement than golf. Yet many doctors recommend patients avoid jogging. It’s true that doctors who disagree will discount this study (not enough patients, poorly designed study, etc.), but I would argue that it is better than no science and just opinion…

Again, patients should make their own medical decisions. But in order to make the best decision, they need to have the best information. If a doctor gives their opinion, that too should be based on the best information available.

Good luck!

Jonathan Cluett, M.D.
About.com Orthopedics

August 23, 2011 at 12:54 am
(23) nick says:

I am 58, an avid golfer and just got a total knee revision after having the 1st knee replacement done 4 years ago. I gave up baseball, tennis, football, basketball and bowling because they made my knee feel torqued when I participated in them. I still played golf once a week, swam, and rode an exercise bike. Now after going through this second KR, I am having 2nd thoughts on playing again. I want to walk for the rest of my life. I am glad I had a lot of good years of playing. Maybe swinging easier is the answer, I will keep reading what others write but I think there will be little if any golf in my future.

December 3, 2011 at 12:58 am
(24) Doug Hansen says:

Hi Dr. Cluett –

I am now just a few weeks pre-op. I will get TKR and attempt golf but if there is any tiny sign of “licing” at any point post-op, I will cease the sport, no question.

Can you recall whether or not this study (now three years old) encompasses and to what historical/proportional degree, high-molecular polyethelyne?

The link to the study is now down.

Also, what is jogging? I see old people shuffling around thinking they are jogging and that might be actually less stressful than walking.

Thanks again, doctor. Your input is valuable and well worth considering.

-=Doug

March 3, 2012 at 8:46 pm
(25) Johnson Mapple says:

I’ve just had total knee replacement surgery to correct an arthritic problem. I don’t intend to do anything that will create the problem I’ve just had corrected! To those of you who are banging away at the ball to enjoy life while you can (and wasn’t that what the knee replacement was all about?), think of how you could be screwing things up for the rest of your life and for those who support you. Did any of you ask your spouse how she might feel about having to do things for you – again – or forever – if you blew the replacement? I didn’t think so. Think of the lives of others too. Maybe on the second time around, some will leave because of your selfishness. What then?

May 10, 2012 at 11:15 pm
(26) Wesley Boucher M.D. says:

I have had both kneesreplaced , done at same time and I was in some trouble postop. I have been playing golf for five years and do use a cart as I have a lousy left ankle that needs fusing but enough surgery for now as I had rotator cuffs also. I used to be a 2-4 handicap but at 81 I am abiut a 16 now. Would love to hear more who play golf against advice of the orthopedists. ????

May 10, 2012 at 11:21 pm
(27) Wesley Boucher M.D. says:

I don’t think leaving the others at home in the lurch is worth discussing because you only live once and batting the ball around is about all you can do. Bike riding is awful if you fall and I fell off bike and knees very tender to land on. Swimming okay. Fishing difficult to get around, but Golf Course level. Thanks Wes

May 20, 2012 at 9:37 am
(28) dick says:

I am a 74 year old male and had a unicondular left knee replacement 6 years ago but still feel pain in the knee. Being an avid golfer I find the game does add stress to both knees. I sometimes play with a brace on the knees which is very cumbersome. Pointing my left foot out about 35 degrees seems to help (I am right-handed).
I would think this is an ideal challenge for golf enthusiasts and professionals to develop fundamental methods and/or prosthetics to make the game more enjoyable. Meanwhile if you must play then experiment with methods to relieve your pain and please share what you discover.

July 9, 2012 at 12:55 pm
(29) James says:

Wait a second – if I have this right – the study you cite http://www6.aaos.org/news/pemr/releases/release.cfm?releasenum=662
was by one MD of four patients. Sorta, kinda interesting but not reliable science or research. Besides, here is an actual quote:

“However, we did not expect to find that golf swings can be so hard on the knees. During the golf swing, it seems that there is a lot of force on the forward knee.”

The good news is that this limited report (“it seems”) at a conference does not suggest golfing is bad for right handed golfers and right side TKA patients. For a right handed golfer, there should be little force on the right knee. The golf swing does not have to include a lot of force on the left knee either. Tiger golfs that way but it is not a good practice even for amatuers without TKAs. The right tempo with a relaxed swing puts little force on left knee.

I had TKA and golf fine and it is an important part of my life and remaining happy and healthy. With my comment that is 10 TKA patients who have responded to this blog with minimal problems golfing with TKA. That is nore than twice the sample size in the reported paper. TKA patients who golf should invest in lessons, use carts and take relief from slopes and heavy rough.

July 9, 2012 at 4:09 pm
(30) orthopedics says:

Dear James,

Please read some of the response above. I agree with your interpretation, and I think your advice about playing modifications are sound.

I agree this one study is not perfect science, nor is it a final answer. What is interesting, to me, is that I would guess if I asked 100 patients what activities they *should* do after knee replacement, 99 would say don’t run, and 99 would say golf is fine… I think that’s interesting, given this biomechanic data suggests forces on the implant are similar for these activities.

So I ask, why is the perception of these activities, and their impact on artificial knees, different? I can’t answer it, but sometimes “the way things have been done” is much more powerful than actual scientific data. Perhaps why that’s why bad medicine lingers for so long, and good developments in medicine are hard to adopt.

Again, golf is not bad. But we should look critically at all medical advice we give, and understand on what grounds we base our recommendations. I think most doctors base their advice on activities after knee replacement on nothing more than their experience. I am trying to give users a glimpse into the little bits of data that do exist.

Regards,

Jonathan Cluett, M.D.
About.com Orthopedics

October 2, 2012 at 10:30 am
(31) Kent Duffy says:

My TKR is scheduled for October 12. I now wear an unloading brace on my left knee, that allows me to golf with less pain. Although I’m looking forward to playing golf without the brace, I’m wondering if the relief it now provides might help decrease the stress on an artificial knee during the golf swing,

October 19, 2012 at 3:27 pm
(32) Moondog Mange says:

Four years since left knee replacement. I still downhill ski, surf a 10′ longboard and golf. Golf actually feels to be the most stressful on the new knee. (right handed) I’ve adjusted my stance to open the left foot more and reduce the rotating motion applied to my left knee. It’s taken a while on the range to correct my swing mechanics and I’m prone to opening up and slicing now, but it’s getting better and has greatly reduced the impact to my replacement. Downhill skiing is limited to groomed intermediate or occasionally groomed single black diamond runs. NO BUMP SKIING! Maintaining smooth form, fluid motion and staying in contact with the snow surface actually feels like the very best exercise I get for the knee. (aside from a bicycle) I’ve skied for 40 years and can keep it smooth, but unless you really know your stuff I wouldn’t go out and try to learn. Surf is a little questionable, but if I think like I’m skiing and try to maintain flex and fluidity I can “flow” nicely in a “60′s” style. (no hot dogging) I avoid riding all the way up to the beach so I don’t risk having to hop off onto the sand, and like any outdoor sport you need to gauge the conditions first. If it’s big and really choppy, don’t go out. This too, I have already done for 30 years and would not recommend trying to start after such a surgery.

October 20, 2012 at 10:14 am
(33) Moondog Mange says:

To Mr. Duffy. I think you’ll find that the unloader brace is damaging to the “new” knee. I had the unloader brace for the last 3 years prior to my replacement. This was custom made to fit the “old” knee. After the new knee was installed the “corrected” knee motion was straighter vertically, and this brace no longer worked without pushing against the action of the replacement. It felt like the unloader brace was doing more damage than anything else I did, so it’s buried in a closet now. Those braces are custom made to fit each person’s existing knee function and sadly (considering the price) they are next to worthless once your knee function is changed.

May 25, 2013 at 1:28 pm
(34) John says:

I had a THR 3 years ago, and a TKR last week. I was told I could play again, but would have to possibly “adjust” to the new knee. The hip gave me no problems, but the knee is a definite different surgery. More pain, and longer recovery. I am glad to have my leg straight again, and will probably golf again – from the forward tees. At 63 I can do that with no loss of ego!

June 18, 2013 at 8:52 am
(35) Brad Warme says:

I had both knees done eight years ago with rotating implants – because I golf. I play all year except winter, 2 or 3 times a week in the summer. I ride a cart. No problems yet with the knees. They feel as good as when I got them. I’ll be 70 this year.

June 18, 2013 at 2:26 pm
(36) JonM says:

I had my TKR (right knee) over two years ago and was playing golf within 6 months after a very tough rehab. My surgeon indicated that golf was definitely among the approved activities.I’d be curious to find out if there were any data concerning which knee was replaced and shortening the TKR life. I’m a right-handed golfer and the stress on the pivot knee (the left) is pretty intense; the right knee, not so much at all.

June 18, 2013 at 4:14 pm
(37) Anne W says:

I had a right total knee replacement in December and was golfing the first of April with no problems. I also work out with a trainer two times a week. My I e question is that my doctor said that I could do anything…..except running and no walking on the treadmill. Any theories????

July 5, 2013 at 2:31 pm
(38) Big Daddy says:

I just had TKR 2 months ago and have been going to the golf course and chipping and putting. I have at least 12 friends that have had TKR and play golf at least 3 times a week and walk 18 holes so without any doubt you can play golf after Surgery. Can everyone? Of course not but if your surgery was successful and done properly I see no reason you cannot play the game. Makes sense to ride a cart if you want the replacement to last longer. I am 60 and plan on playing for the rest of my life. Hopefully that will happen.

July 12, 2013 at 7:26 am
(39) Joe says:

I had a TKR on my left knee 7 yrs ago. Had my right knee done 2 yrs ago. I am now 65 and last season I played 65 rounds and walked every one with my doctors blessing. You are definitely in the minority with you advice.

September 1, 2013 at 9:47 pm
(40) Janet Stafford says:

I’ve had Total Knee Replacement, followed a year later by Total Hip Replacement, both on right leg. Have been very happy both were done and have been able to walk endlessly without any discomfort.
Then 4 days ago, two plus years after new knee, I did not see a step down and fell landing hard on that right knee. It has swollen some, has a clunk I can feel with my hand on it when I bend it, though I can walk fine. Should I have it checked by my surgeon?

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