The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) plays a critical role in the stability and function of the knee joint. The ACL stabilizes the joint when stress is put on the knee during rotation and other movements.
In general, the ACL is injured more than any other ligament. There's a great deal of research and extensive knowledge about anterior cruciate ligament injuries and the best ways to restore the knee to normal function. It is not uncommon for athletes to injure their ACL and ultimately return to a competitive level in many sports.
The ACL is not commonly injured during golf, but rather as a result of an accident or while a golf enthusiast participates in another sport. However, the impact to the golf swing should be considered when someone has had an ACL reconstruction within the past year, or if a golfer who has had an injury to the ACL without surgery. The affect on the golf swing is likely to be most significant if the ACL tear is in the lead leg (left knee for right-handed swing, right knee for left-handed swing).
- Use caution on uneven lies. Downhill lies can be especially troublesome for those with an injury to the ACL of the lead leg.
- Use caution on unstable lies, such as climbing in and out of a sand trap. This can place increased rotation and stress on the knee.
- Be careful to avoid a large lateral sway during the golf swing, as this may increase rotation and stress on the knee.
- Avoid "posting" on to the leading side leg if the golfer has had an ACL injury or recent ligament surgery.
- Maintain the strength of the hip and thigh muscles, especially on the leading side leg. This will help control rotation and shear forces around the knee.
- Avoid prolonged practice or walking on a knee that is swollen and has limited range of movement.
- Avoid a "closed" stance position which may increase rotation stress on the knee of the lead leg.
Adjustments for Golfers with an ACL Injury
- Adhere to a rehabilitation program for restoring strength to the hip, thigh and core muscles.
- Ensure that you are able to get into a desirable finish position and hold steady on the lead leg for 20 - 30 seconds without pain or a feeling of instability.
- Use a slightly open stance or rotate the lead leg outward at least 30 degrees along the target line. This will result in less pressure on the knee during ball strike and follow through.
- Enter and exit a bunker from its lowest, most even side.
- Use ice on the knee as a means to reduce swelling and discomfort after a round or after practice. Use a cloth or towel, never put ice directly on the skin.
- Adhere to a gradual increase in both time on the leg as well as number of swings; we refer to this as a functional progression.