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This article was written by Justin Cooper, PT, MPT, SCS, and Abigail Mitchell, MS/OTR/L. In a first-of-its-kind clinical trial, MedStar Health Research Institute studies how quickly golfers can safely return to “‘baseline club head speed’ after total knee or hip replacement surgery.
Many golfers considering total knee and hip replacement (arthroplasty) have one big question: “How long will it be before I can get back on the course?”
Until now, orthopedic surgeons couldn’t give a firm answer to that question. All research has been retrospective, so researchers asked golfers how long they think it took them to swing well again after recovering from arthroplasty. Current return-to-play data are based on patient-reported surveys but lack a performance component where the study team observes and evaluates the golfer’s swing. It’s one thing to return to the links, but it is another to return and swing the club like you did before your surgery.
Some patients delay or avoid arthroplasty altogether without a firm timeline, opting to live with the pain to stay in the game. We can and should do better for our athletes—try telling a diehard golfer, “It may be three months or three years,” and see how they like that answer!
So, MedStar Health Research Institute, with funds from a grant by The Kahlert Foundation and in partnership with leading golf research center Titleist Performance Institute, is launching a golf medicine prospective clinical trial to gather pre-and post-surgical golf club head swing data from patients having knee or hip arthroplasty.
We hope this study will help more accurately define when it’s safe to get back to golf after hip or knee arthroplasty, so we can better guide patient care and help patients make more informed decisions so they can stay active longer.
About the research.
Hip and knee pain affects the golf swing, and the pain depends on which knee is injured, whether it is the golfer’s lead side or whether they are pushing off the trail leg on the downswing. In some cases, knee and hip pain or instability restricts the patient’s ability to walk the golf course or take powerful swings.
We are enrolling golf enthusiasts of all skill levels, age 18 and older, who plan to have knee or hip arthroplasty. Our study, “Golf-Related Outcomes Following Total Joint Arthroplasty, A Prospective Case Series,” is approved by the Institutional Review Board.
The study aims to determine when golfers return to or exceed their presurgical performance. We will capture a baseline of each participant’s club head swing speed before surgery to evaluate that timeline. Then we will reassess their swing speed at multiple time points after surgery.
Participants will swing a golf club ten times to capture the speed of hitting and not hitting a ball. We’re also collecting some patient-reported outcomes to accompany that performance data.
About the Kahlert Grant.
This grant made it possible to conduct this research. The technology and equipment that we used in the study to capture the patients’ golf club head speeds were purchased through the grant. The funds are divided into three units:
- Purchasing cutting-edge equipment to measure swing performance
- Conducting the clinical trial
- Educating patient care teams in golf medicine best practices with a special Titleist Research Institute for MedStar Health providers seminar.
We’re eager to learn whether patients swing better after knee or hip arthroplasty resolves joint pain. In contrast, we can’t promise improvement in swing or handicap—although patients have asked about it! — we are optimistic that we’ll gather sufficient data to help orthopedic surgeons give patients solid, data-driven return-to-play recommendations.
Ultimately, our golf medicine team is excited to give patients a firm timeline of when they can get back to what they like, not just the things they must do after total hip or knee replacement.
This novel research wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of the Kahlert Foundation, our partnership with Titleist Performance Institute, and the collaborative culture at MedStar Health. Our study relies on teamwork and expertise from sports medicine doctors, orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, athletic trainers, and strength conditioning specialists.
Just as we communicate and collate resources in patient care, providers from multiple specialties unite in research projects like this to expand our resources and achieve the best data to improve patient outcomes.