Sometimes the injury occurs in a flash – slipping on an icey path, bending down awkwardly, trying to pick up a heavy object. Sometimes it develops over time – runner’s knee, too many loaded squats, etc. Whatever the reason, there are five injuries to this crucial joint that can keep you off the golf course for a period longer than you’d like.
With that in mind, here’s a quick reference guide to knee injuries and what you can do – right now – to avoid them. The injury information comes from Dr Vernon Cooley, a knee specialist who performed surgeries on Tiger Woods and is the physician for the US ski and snowboard teams. The exercises are from Dave Herman, one of Golf Digest‘s 50 Best Fitness Trainers in America (davehermanperformance.com).
“This is a type of arthritis,” Cooley says. “It occurs when articular cartilage, usually behind the knee, deterioriates. The golfer will typically feel a dull, achy pain and might experience swelling.”
2. MENISCUS TEARS
“This disc-shaped cartilage between the thigh and shin bones often tears as a result of being compressed as the knee joint rotates,” Cooley says. “The golfer will feel a sharp, biting pain.”
“Decades of joint stress can result in a significant loss of cartilage, often on the inner and outer edges of the knee,” Cooley says, “causing bone-on-bone contact and deep, aching or sharp pain.”
4. TORN ANTERIOR CRUCIATE LIGAMENT
“This connective tissue in the middle of the joint can rip if the knee goes beyond its normal range of motion,” Cooley says. “A popping sound usually accompanies a tear, and swelling will occur within hours.”
5. TORN MEDIAL COLLATERAL LIGAMENT
“This ligament is located on the inner portion of the joint,” Cooley says. “Stress placed on the lead knee through impact can rip the tissue, but this is rare and the injury can heal without surgery. Swelling, soreness and bruising on the inside portion of the knee are common symptoms.”
DO THESE EXERCISES FOR HEALTHY KNEESHIP-AND-CALF STRETCHES: “Increased hip and calf flexibility reduces the stress and shearing force on the knee,” Herman says. “On a sturdy chair, hold this demonstrated position, pushing the hips forward and straightening the grounded leg.”
BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUATS: “Weak quadriceps and hamstring (or thigh) muscles can lead to instability in the knee joint,” Herman says. “Keeping your spine straight, slowly drop the posted knee to the ground.”
HAMSTRING STRETCHES: “Golfers usually have weak, tight hamstrings, but these posterior thigh muscles are responsible for bending the leg,” Herman says. “Hold the position shown. Keep the extended foot on its heel and the extended leg straight.”
HIP-FLEXOR STRETCHES: “These muscles allow golfers to get into and maintain proper address posture, which helps alleviate some compression issues with the knee,” Herman says. “Hold the position shown, thrusting your pelvis toward the chair.”