Shoulder arthritis may not only be painful, but may more debilitating than you realize. If you are a golfer, you may have noticed how arthritis pain has affected your golf game. Shoulder replacement can alleviate the pain, but can it actually improve your game? An article in the January 2017 issue of American Journal of Sports Medicine entitled “Return to Golfing Activity After Joint Arthroplasty” discussed the rate of return to playing golf after a total shoulder replacement. Based on the studies summarized, 90% to 100% of people return to playing golf after a shoulder replacement. Interestingly, studies have reported an average improvement of 12 yards in drive length and a 1.4 to 5 decrease in handicap following shoulder replacement surgery. These findings highlight the fact that shoulder arthritis leads to substantial disability through pain and loss of motion.
In total shoulder replacement, the ball and socket joint are resurfaced. The goal is to remove the diseased cartilage and provide pain relief. Additionally, with modern implants the native anatomy can be reproduced very closely such that normal mechanics of the joint can be reproduced. This allows people to achieve normal or near normal motion and consequently the ability to return to sports like golf, tennis and swimming.
In my practice, I allow my patients to return to golf progressively. Putting is allowed at 2 months after surgery. At 3 to 4 months chipping is allowed and at 4 to 6 months a full swing is allowed. I have also noted that patients with a shoulder replacement often report playing at a better level than prior to surgery!