A study reports that meniscus tears are the most common knee injuries in this sport. So, I’m sure you’re wondering: Can you play golf with a torn meniscus? (1)
The most direct answer, really, is that you shouldn’t be playing golf while your meniscus is still torn. It can worsen your injury and even lead to more complications down the road.
This article dives deeper into why you shouldn’t be playing with an injured meniscus, treatments, and others. I recommend going through these from the top but if you want to skip sections, simply tap on their corresponding bullets below:
- Reasons you should avoid playing golf with your meniscus tear
- Treating meniscus tears in golfers
- Adjustments you should try to prevent injury
2 reasons why it’s a bad idea to play golf with a meniscus injury
1. You can make your injury worse.
A study points out that forces of 100-440% of your body weight act on your knee joint every golf swing. (1) Also, your menisci are your knees’ shock absorbers and force distributors.
So, with an already compromised meniscus, your knees won’t be able to absorb and disperse those massive forces from your golf swing. This, in turn, can lead to a deeper tear to your meniscus. Or, just as bad, another injury (like ACL tears for example).
Heck, meniscus injuries happen even under the most optimal conditions. So, if you had already injured your lead knee playing golf and you’re still playing under the same conditions, the same technique, with the same equipment, then there’s a good chance you’ll make your torn meniscus worse.
2. An untreated meniscus tear increases your risk for knee osteoarthritis.
Knee osteoarthritis is caused, mainly, by wear and tear. This makes it common in the older population who’ve already put their knees through good use throughout their lifetime.
However, certain conditions can accelerate this process – and that includes a tear in your meniscus.
As stated, your meniscus absorbs and diffuses forces that act on your knee. Now, imagine a car with a busted suspension. Rough ride, eh? The same thing happens to your knees when you have a torn meniscus.
This lack of shock absorption and dispersion gets magnified over time, increasing your risk for osteoarthritis.
How meniscus tears are treated in golfers
Depending on how severe your injury is, you essentially have 2 options:
- Conservative treatment, or
- Meniscus surgery
Conservatively treating your meniscus tear
At home, you can take anti-inflammatory medications such as those you can buy over the counter like Tylenol or Advil; or you can use the RICE method.
Anti-inflammatories will help limit the swelling that happens after the injury which, consequently, also dulls down knee pain. Over the counter pills generally work well but your doctor might prescribe stronger medication, too, depending on your symptoms.
The RICE methodhelps manage your pain and inflammation without the need for medication. It stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. However, only use ice for 15 minutes at a time and only use knee sleeves or bandages that feel snug to avoid complications.
Outside of those, though, the best non-surgical treatment for meniscus tears is physical therapy. PT gets you back on the course faster and safer while also teaching you how to prevent reinjury.
Surgery for torn meniscus
More severe tears may require surgery to heal properly. The surgery will aim to preserve the meniscus by repairing the tear or removing the torn part of the meniscus.
Your orthopedic surgeon will most likely perform an arthroscopy. He/she will insert a small camera through an incision on your knee and use small instruments to do the repair. This leaves you with a smaller scar as well as a faster recovery time.
Take note that you will still need physical therapy after your surgery. Your PTs goal will be to strengthen your knee, regain the joint’s mobility, and get you back on your feet so you can enjoy the golf course once again.
Adjustments you should consider when you get back on the golf course
Meniscus injuries happen because of forceful twisting or sudden stops. Twisting and pivoting, in particular, are inherent to any golf swing. This is why meniscus tears are the most common knee injuries in this sport.
Fortunately, there are a few adjustments you can make to lower your chances of another meniscus injury.
Change how you plant your lead leg during your golf swing
Explosive twisting while you swing your clubs results in massive rotational forces on your lead knee. And, chances are that this is what caused your meniscus tear in the first place. For right handers, this will be your left knee. For left-handed golfers, this will be your right knee.
To counter this, try these adjustments:
- Turn your lead foot slightly more outward. This pre-rotates your knees which limits the overall rotation of the joint during your golf swing.
- Pivot on your heels. This can be done by pointing your lead foot upwards. Pivoting on your heels while you swing allows your entire leg to barrel roll with your torso and shoulders. This effectively reduces the rotational forces on your knee.
- Lift your lead foot when you swing. Admittedly, this feels awkward but many professional and experienced golfers have done this (e.g. Patrick Reed). Lifting your foot while you swing essentially cancels out most of the rotation on your knee, making your risk for meniscus tears minimal.
Wear shoes with short and soft spikes
Just as adjustments to how you plant your lead foot reduce rotational forces on your knee joint, so do the shoes you wear.
Specifically, wearing shoes with shorter and softer cleats makes it easier for you to pivot with your feet rather than putting all that torque on your knee, hence reducing your risk for knee injury.
Use professionally fitted clubs
Everything from the material being used down to the length and flexibility of your shafts influence how you play the game. This is important because how you play the game also affects how easily you get injured.
So, while a professional fitting might require a bit more money, think of it as a long-term investment on the health of your joints.
How long after meniscus repair can I play golf?
Depending on how well your body copes with treatment, the type of surgery done, and other factors, you can expect to play golf again within 4-6 months after meniscus repair.
Can a meniscus tear heal by itself?
Whether or not a meniscus tear can heal on its own depends on its severity. If the tear is limited to the outer 1/3 of your meniscus, then, yes, it can heal naturally. Any deeper and you might have to consider surgery.
While it isn’t the most common to suffer a knee injury while down on the green, they do happen – and meniscus tears are leading the charge. When this happens to you, I urge you to let it heal completely before you swing those clubs.
Doing so will help prevent making things worse as well as minimize your risk for osteoarthritis in the future.
- Baker, Matthew L et al. “Risk Factors for Knee Injury in Golf: A Systematic Review.” Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.) vol. 47,12 (2017): 2621-2639. doi:10.1007/s40279-017-0780-5
- McHardy, Andrew et al. “Golf injuries: a review of the literature.” Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.) vol. 36,2 (2006): 171-87. doi:10.2165/00007256-200636020-00006
- Zouzias, Ioannis C et al. “Golf Injuries: Epidemiology, Pathophysiology, and Treatment.” The Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons vol. 26,4 (2018): 116-123. doi:10.5435/JAAOS-D-15-00433