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FITNESS

It Can Bring Players to Their Knees

Research: It's not football, but golf places just as much force on the leg joints.

July 13, 1998|SALLY SQUIRES | WASHINGTON POST

Golfers itching to get back on the links after knee surgery beware: A new study finds that golf places force on the knees equivalent to playing football.

"First and foremost, we found that golf is not a benign physical activity to the knee," said the study's author, Mark Grabiner, director of the clinical biomechanics and rehabilitation laboratory at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. "The forces and torques at the knee during the twist of the golf swing were as large as [those] that had been previously reported in a 'run and cut' in football."

The "run and cut" involves running forward at full speed and then planting one foot and turning 90 degrees to the side. "People recognize that this is not a [simple] activity for the knee," Grabiner said.

To measure the force on the knees, Grabiner and his colleagues used a specially equipped lab to study 13 men, whose golf handicaps ranged from 4 to 18. Reflective markers were placed at key joints involved in the golf swing, and six high-speed video cameras captured the movement as golfers hit a ball with a five iron.

The study showed that the strong force on the knee was independent both of the type of golf shoe that study participants wore and the golfer's skill. The strongest forces on the knee occurred during the downswing. "We did not find a situation where we had a highly skilled golfer with a nice easy swing and lower forces on the knee," Grabiner said.

What the findings suggest, he said, is that determining when an injured golfer can return safely to the game is difficult. "It gets to be a very rough call when a person should go back to golf. Only when they can run as fast [as they want without pain] and turn sideways suddenly can they go back to golf."

The study appeared in a recent issue of the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

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