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How to Return to Golf Safely after an Injury or Surgery?

Updated: Dec 15, 2023


So the weather is starting to warm up and the golf season is not too far away from us, finally! We have been getting a lot of inquiries this past winter with golfers looking to return to playing after having surgery or an injury that ended the season before and we are going to talk about how to return to golf safely in this post!

Many golfers, regardless of level of play often opt for surgery in the off season after having to deal with an injury that stopped them from playing the game they love. In general, any orthopaedic surgery recovery is between 3-6 months and that is the timeline to return to normal active daily activities.

However, when it comes to returning to golf, it is not an all-or-nothing scenario! This also applies to golfers returning from any injuries - even ones without surgeries!

This is when golfers find themselves in pain or injury to another body part while returning to the sport too quickly without proper movement correction.

Since the golf swing is such a complex movement in a span of 1.2-1.3 seconds, any dysfunctions in the movement pattern or systems due to any injury or surgical intervention cannot be overlooked in returning a golfer to the sport safely.

So .. What are Dysfunctions in movements patterns and systems?

  • Body muscles and movements in general are grouped into subsystems, for example:

  • Inner and outer core - to Stabilize the spine and pelvis for the body to move or rotate efficiently

  • Deep Longitudinal system - Control between your Erector Spinae and Hamstrings to move your lower body with your trunk - important as it can affect SI joint

  • Lateral System - Control in balancing your upper body & lower body to centralize the body when you are balancing on one leg - To reduce compensatory trunk side tilt

  • Anterior and Posterior Oblique systems - which are muscles across the body that create a force-coupling to generate power - important in rotational sports (Glute Max vs. Lats/ External Oblique vs. Hip Adductors)

  • Any movement restrictions are identified through these different subsystems of the body - and in the same order listed as above - the inner and outer core need to be functioning well before the other parts of the body can work properly to perform the movement needed.

  • Movement restrictions, tightness, scar and breathing tension or pain are all considered dysfunctions in the movement patterns

With Surgical intervention, one of the main reasons of dysfunctions is often the SCAR!!!

• Scars tend to hold more tension and have reduced elasticity unlike a normal tissue, and with spine surgery especially, the scars often span across more than one joint, and through many layers of tissue. That can indirectly inhibit the muscles activation in the motor control centre in the brain.



Here are a few examples where scars often inhibit important muscles after surgery:

  • Spine/ Hernia/ Appendicitis Surgery - Inner & Outer Core muscles/ Pelvic Floor Muscles - affect your stability to create rotation & separation

  • Shoulder Surgery - Neck and Rotator cuff muscles and joint restrictions (especially after joint tightening) - restricting range of motion and stability/ support for the joint

  • Elbow Surgery - Restrictions in joint movement and forearm rotation

And of course, SCARS are only one of the reasons! Injuries without surgery can also cause dysfunctions!

The other common reasons for the important muscles to be inhibited also includes:

  • Facilitated Diaphragm - most adults lose proper diaphragmatic breathing and overuse it to create strength as a compensation to an inhibited muscle

  • Facilitated Muscles coupling - another muscle in the body is compensating for the inhibited one

  • Jaw tension - people with TMJ problems can also compensate with the jaw, especially if you find yourself clenching your jaws to get more strength

  • Pelvic Floor Muscles - this is exceptionally important too! Because it directly affects your core and hip stability - which is very important in creating power for golf!

Once the dysfunctions are identified, the next thing is to activate the muscles that are inhibited. As listed above, there are many different combination and structures in your body working together to do every movement - so identifying the right muscle couple is important to tackle the movement pattern change needed to perform the golf swing.


After addressing the muscles activation, transition into golf swing is the next step making sure the movement pattern translates over in the golf posture and each joint having adequate support in order to deliver the speed and force through the joints. 

Last but not least, once mobility and stability are reestablished, then a RETURN TO PLAY PROTOCOL IS THE LAST STEP to returning to golf!

Although more commonly seen with contact sports, the progression of the body into the full swing motion is as important as well.

Starting with chips and pitches with half swing, gradually working the rotation into a full swing at different speeds of 30% 50% 70% 90%. That will help condition your body back into the motion and also ensuring your movement pattern is retrained especially after weeks to months of not swinging a golf club. 


In conclusion, three main things in order to return to golf post injury or surgery are:

  • Identifying the dysfunction patterns

  • Resetting the dysfunction pattern and activation the muscles to support the joints needed to retrain movement pattern for the swing

  • Gradual return to play progression without rushing into full swings

This will help you get back safely and gradually while reducing the risk of re-injury so you won’t have to lose any more time from the game you love!

Hope this helps and if you would like to learn more about how to identify the dysfunctions you may have - feel free to contact us with any questions!

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