When can I play golf again? Recovering from Spinal Fusion Surgery

David Donald

Many golfers have suffered from a golf related back injury for years

Lumbar fusion surgery is an avenue of relief for some people. However, they are afraid it will affect their performance or, worse, prevent them from playing the game at all.

A recent study, however, shows spinal fusion surgery may improve their golf game not hamper it.

Researchers at Rush University Medial Center conducted a 4-year study on patients who had spinal fusion surgery. All patients reported playing recreational golf regularly.

What researchers found is that 65 percent of amateur golfers played the game within a year after their spinal fusion procedure. Moreover, within 12 months after surgery, 75 percent played as much golf as they did before surgery- some even more so – and 80 percent improved their handicap.

The study also showed the minimally invasive spine surgery approach, rather than traditional open back surgery, provided the best outcomes.

Golf is one of the most popular recreational sports in the world with more than 25 million people in the United States playing in 2017

Other studies show 18 to 54 percent of those who play will experience an injury to their lower back at some point in their lives.

That’s a lot of sore backs.

A common question patients ask is when they can return to playing recreational sports, such as golf, again.

The answer, of course, varies from patient to patient. Following post-surgical guidelines and physical therapy can help to speed recovery and improve flexibility and movement.

Spinal fusion has given professional golfer Tiger Woods another chance. Last year, Woods underwent an anterior lumbar interbody fusion. It was the fourth surgery performed on his spine. In March, nearly a year after the spinal fusion, Woods has shown glimmers of a comeback. He tied for 2nd in the Valspar Championship and placed 5th in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

How does a golf related back injury happen?

A person’s overall fitness level more than anything else is what can lead to a golf related back injury. That’s why on average people who play golf recreationally experience more back pain than those who play professionally.

Many recreational player are not physically active during the week. Their back and abdominal muscles are weak and do not support the spine enough to deal with the forces of excessive practice and play on the weekend.

Poor golf swing mechanics can also put pressure on the back. Theses forces exert a tremendous amount of force – about 8 times the bodyweight – on the lumbar spine when swinging a golf club. The degree in which the body bends and over rotates when swinging a golf club can cause lower back pain or make it worse. Recreational golfers who focus on stretching and exercise during the week, can reduce the chances of developing a golf related back injury. In contrast, professional golfers are in peak physical condition and have mastered the mechanics of the game resulting in fewer injuries.

If you are a recreational golfer who wants to get back in the game contact us to schedule a consultation.

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