“Dear The Golfing Doc. I have had 4 knee surgeries in the past for various injuries growing up. I play golf on a regular basis and would like to continue to do so. What are some safe exercises I can do to keep my knee healthy and strong? Thanks. Mike W. Kirland, WA.”
First of all, congratulations for being one of the first 3 readers to submit a question during the “Ask The Golfing Doc” contest last month. I hope you enjoy your new Golf Roller!
A knee injury may occur during any regular daily activity but this risk naturally increases with the participation in sports. This increased risk is primarily due to the complexity of the knee joint and the intricacy of its surrounding structures. Although the knee is structurally supported by the femur and tibia, two of the longest and strongest bones in the body, the knee also relies heavily on the surrounding soft tissue structures for stability. These include tendons, ligaments, menisci, bursae, cartilage, and a joint capsule. There are also the large muscle groups that cross the knee joint. The hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves. Any weakness or irritation to one of these structures can lead to a sudden knee injury or lead to a long battle with a chronic knee problem.
Although golf may appear to be a low impact sport in comparison to other activities such as football, basketball, or even jogging, the golf swing places a lot of stress on the knees. For example, in a right-handed golfer, there is a high amount of rotational stress placed on your left or lead knee during the downswing and follow through. If you have a swing fault such as a sway or slide, this increases the amount of lateral stress on both knees. Swinging a club, squatting down to pick up a ball, or simply just walking the golf course may become difficult and painful.
Regardless of your swing, if you have other biomechanical dysfunctions, or what I call imbalances between mobility and stability, your knees are at risk of injury. For instance, if you have poor hip mobility or poor ankle mobility, your knees have to give up some stability to help compensate for the lack of movement in these areas. This contributes to the overall risk of injuring your knee. Even the world’s best golfers such as Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, and Fred Funk are not immune to knee injuries. All of them have undergone surgeries to repair torn structures. Funk has actually had a knee replacement and continues to golf with no residual effects.
The best way to prevent a knee injury from occurring is to keep the knee and all its surrounding structures as healthy as possible. This includes a combination of basic stretching and strengthening exercises. You must have good mobility and strength for even the simplest movements in golf such as teeing up a ball or bending down to read the green.
Here are a few basic exercises that you can do on a regular daily basis to help keep the area healthy and strong. If you have had a knee replacement, these exercises are safe for you to perform, but remember to stay within the given range of motion of your artificial knee.
If you suspect you have a current knee condition, whether it may simply be stiffness, soreness, or an intermittent catching sensation, please consult your medical professional for a full knee evaluation.
DAILY STRETCHING EXERCISES FOR THE KNEE
Grab your ankle and pull your heel towards your glutes. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 3-4 times per side.
Place your foot on a stool or chair. Keep that leg straight and lean forward to feel a stretch in the back of your leg. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3-4 times per side.
Using a wall to lean on, straighten your back leg and lean forward onto your front leg until you feel a stretch in the calf. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3-4 times per side.
DAILY STRENGTHENING EXERCISES FOR THE KNEE
Start with your feet shoulder apart. Keeping your knees in line with your ankles, squat down to 45 degrees. Return to the Starting Position and repeat 10-20 times. Do 1-3 sets depending on your fitness level.
Front Lunge – Starting Position
Front Lunge – Finish Position
Starting with your feet shoulder apart, step forward into a lunge. Keep your front knee over your ankle at all times. Drop the back knee down towards the floor. Return to Starting Position. Repeat 10-20 times per side and do 1-3 sets depending on your fitness level.
SIDE LUNGES AKA “NINJA LUNGES”
Ninja Lunge to the Right
Ninja Lunge to the Left
Starting with your feet shoulder width apart, step out directly to your side to do a side lunge. Slowly lower your body weight onto that foot and straighten the other leg. Return to the Starting Position. Repeat 10-20 times per side and do 1-3 sets depending on your fitness level.