After Total Joint Replacement, Amateur Golfers Play More Often

By Will Boggs

October 26, 2020

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Amateur golfers who have a total joint replacement are able to play more frequently than they did before surgery, though their golf handicap suffers slightly, according to a survey and database study.

Hip and knee replacements are common among older golfers, and many are concerned that joint-replacement surgery will affect their ability to return to golf and hurt their level of play.

Dr. Jacob D. Gorbaty of Carolinas Medical Center and OrthoCarolina, in Charlotte, North Carolina, and colleagues surveyed golfers registered with the Golf Handicap Information Network to evaluate the relationship of joint replacement to the rate of return and level of play, as assessed by player handicap changes.

The average age at the time of their first joint replacement of the players who responded to the survey was 66.8 years, and these respondents had an average 45 years of golfing experience.

The site of the first joint replacement was the knee in 58.3% of respondents and the hip and 41.7%.

Golfers returned to play an average 62 days after the first joint replacement, and average plays per month increased significantly from 5.2 to 5.6, the researchers report in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

Golf handicaps increased by an average 1.4 strokes after a first joint replacement, by 1.6 strokes after a second joint replacement, and by 3.6 strokes after a third joint replacement. Results were similar after knee and hip replacements.

"Although it is known that handicap differential increases with age, a major limitation is that we cannot conclude whether replacement has a positive or negative effect on the golf level of play when controlling for age-related changes," the authors caution.

Dr. Guillermo A. Bonilla-Leon of Universidad de Los Andes, in Bogota, Colombia, who has studied sports return and performance after primary hip replacement, told Reuters Health by email, "Surgeons must feel confident to inform patients on the high chances to return to golf very soon after surgery and with a similar performance they had before the procedure."

"Pain relief obtained through joint-replacement surgery allows patients to play as frequently as they would like to," said Dr. Bonilla-Leon, who was not involved in the new study. "Therefore, it is my opinion that in golfers who suffer hip or knee arthritis, surgeons must (emphasize) the impact of the disease on their golf frequency, since it could significantly improve after surgery."

Dr. Gorbaty did not respond to a request for comments.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, online September 28, 2020.