Knee Pain from Golfing
Do you ever notice a pain or swelling in one of your knees without any real idea of how it got there? Sometimes knee pain seems to develop quietly in the background while we go about our day. This is especially true with slower paced sports like golf. Knee injuries make up about 10% of total golf injuries. And while it’s not the most common type of injury in this sport, knee pain from golfing does happen.
Most people probably don’t think of golfing as a source for knee pain. Those who golf very little or not at all might assume that golf, as a low impact sport, comes with little risk. It’s true that it’s a little easier on the bones than other sports. After all, there’s no point in a golf game where another player will collide with you (hopefully… ). But there are still elements of the game that can lead to knee injuries.
In almost all cases, a knee injury from golf will be a small one. That’s why it may start gradually. A person’s knee pain from golfing may be so subtle at first that it goes unnoticed. But during a round, or during other physical activities like walking up stairs, the pain may become noticeable. In this case, it’s important to pay close attention to the pain, where it’s located and what seems to trigger it. If you can diagnose your injury, you can treat it correctly and prevent it from worsening.
Sometimes knee pain from golfing is the result of an old injury coming out of the woodwork to say hello. (How cordial of it!) If you’re aware of an old injury, you should take this into account when playing. Certain things about the game of golf cause strain on old injuries, and these same things can cause new ones. Poor swing posture, for instance, may be the biggest. Playing on a hilly course, wearing poorly fitted shoes or bending down repetitively to pick up the ball can all also contribute. While each injury, cause and recovery will be unique, as a general rule you can follow certain guidelines. Here are two of the most common causes of knee pain from golfing, how they’re caused and what to do about them.
The meniscus is a disc of cartilage situated in the knee, between the tibia (aka the shin bone) and the thigh bone. The meniscus helps to cushion the knee joint while also serving as a shock absorber. A torn meniscus is caused by sudden twists in the knee or sudden weight or impact on the knee. For this reason, a torn meniscus is a very common injury in many sports involving pivoting or jumping (basketball, for instance).
Even while there is no pivoting, no sprinting and no jump shots in golf, there can still be enough pressure on the knee to cause a tear in the meniscus. Consider, for instance, the downswing. In this movement, golfers transfer their weight from the trail leg to the lead leg. There you have a sudden weight on the knee. It’s the same concept as the impact a basketball player makes after a jump shot. And, many golfers rotate their knees when they swing as well. This causes a sudden twist, the same movement used by a pivoting basketball player.
Older—or shall we say, more seasoned—golfers are more likely to tear their meniscus because cartilage tends to weaken with age. Thus, the more seasoned golfers in particular should see that their posture is solid, and that their shoes are supportive. Moreover, pay attention to your physical health and watch for developing knee pain from golfing.
The good news is that most torn menisci start as minor injuries. If you catch the pain right at the beginning, you can treat it with ice, rest and perhaps some physical therapy. But, if you fail to rest and take this precautionary treatment step, the tear risks becoming much worse. In the most extreme cases, where the injury inhibits walking or straightening the leg, it may require surgery.
Iliotibial Band Syndrome
The iliotibial band (IT band for short) is a thick band of fibers that runs from the top of the pelvis, through the hip and knee and down to the tibia. Neither muscle nor bone, this ligament connects to both, allowing the muscles in the hips to move the leg to the side and to the back.
IT band syndrome usually manifests as pain in the knee, though its anatomy involves much more than the knee itself. This painful injury is caused by a swelling or inflammation in the IT band. This occurs from friction between the ligament and the bone.
While extremely common in runners, golfers are also at risk of developing IT band syndrome. You’ll notice it as a pain on the outside of the knee (where the IT band rubs against the joint). It may worsen when you’re walking uphill or up stairs, two things which, in excess, can contribute to this condition.
Golfers who lack stability in their swing or who stand up at impact are especially likely to develop IT band syndrome. Thus, one of the best ways of avoiding it—and ultimately healing it—is to work on stability. Your gluteal muscles and your thigh muscles play a large role in keeping your sturdy and stable. If they’re too weak to do the job, the IT band ends up taking on some of the impact. This causes irritation and pain. Regularly exercising these muscles, as well as stretching them to increase flexibility, will insure that your IT band is only functioning as it’s meant to.
Avoiding Knee Pain
All things considered, golfers can avoid most types of knee pain by putting a few key points into practice. For one, as mentioned above, work on increasing strength and flexibility in the legs. The muscles surrounding the knee are there in part to support it, and the stronger they are, the better they can do that job. Also, make sure your swing posture is on point, and that you’re not placing any excess pressure or twisting on either knee. And, lastly, find the appropriate shoes and the appropriate clubs. It’s amazing how much properly fitted equipment can prevent knee pain from golfing.
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