Knee Surgeries and Golf Don’t Mix

This is the last Shooting Your Age newsletter for a few weeks.  Next Monday I will be having knee replacement surgery to (hopefully!) repair this quickly degrading joint that hurts all the time.  Here is how I got to this point.

High School and College Basketball

Basketball was always my favorite sport growing up, and if I were still able to play competitively, it would give golf a run for its money even now.  As a side note, being a University of Tennessee alumnus, I have really enjoyed watching the Vols play basketball this year!   

I played some in high school, and got better as I got older.  I played a lot of pretty competitive basketball while I was in college.  I played for a radio team  that played for charity.  I played for an AAU team outside of Atlanta after graduating from UT.  I routinely played in two rec leagues, plus pickup games whenever possible.  During my first job as a parks and recreation director, I was part of a group of guys that would sometimes scrimmage against the local college team to give them a different group of people, and a different look.  

And I know I’ve played 1/10th the amount of ball as a LeBron James, or a Steph  Curry, but nevertheless, my knees started giving me trouble in my thirties.  I had three knee surgeries in the 1990’s and was told even then I had little cartilage left.

Well, that eagle has landed.  Now, at least in my right knee, I have gotten to the point where it’s more bone-on-bone than not, and, doctor’s orders:  No More Cortisone.


Walking and Playing

Last year, we joined the Cabarrus Country Club through a trial membership for a number of reasons, not the least being it is a George Cobb design that was designed to be walker friendly.

Many of the members walk.  It routinely has as many golfers walking as riding (cart fees are pretty steep which also encourages walking).  I was excited to walk, and get back to my roots of walking while playing, plus enjoying the exercise benefits.

The more I walked and played, the more my knee hurt.  First I could get through 15 holes, then 12, then barely 9, before the ache in my knee caused me to focus more on limping than on hitting.  

We went to Scotland last July for the Open Championship, and I got a cortisone shot before we went, which was magic elixir pixie juice in my knee.  It didn’t hurt, I didn’t think about it, I walked 18 holes at Kingsbarns, and 18 holes at St. Andrews Castle Course, and walked all over Carnoustie for two days.  Not to mention lots of just sightseeing walking around town, with no pain.  

Then about two weeks after returning, I woke up one morning and noticed some pain.  Within 48 hours, the magic juice was gone, and the knee ache was back with a vengeance.  No more golf walking.  No more cortisone.  And last summer the doc told me (for the fifth or sixth time) that I was going to need a knee replacement.  And this time, I knew I couldn’t keep putting it off.

In Preparation

The last several months have been spent preparing both physically and mentally.  I’ve been doing my due diligence on what to expect.  Since I have had both hips replaced (a result of wearing body armor when I was mobilized to Iraq in 2007-08), I kind of know what to expect.  Nevertheless, knee replacement and recovery is generally seen as more complicated and difficult than hip replacement.

Since I finally got a surgery date, I have been diligently working on strengthening my right knee and quad muscles.  Every other morning has been spent with a series of leg exercises with ankle weights (and a for what it’s worth:  it’s really difficult to strap two 5-lb ankle weights on one ankle and have them stay in place).  But I want that knee and muscle structure to be as strong as it can be, and since I haven’t been walking much I knew it wasn’t where it needed to be.

I’ve also been working on my left knee and muscle structure.  Getting up and down, in and out of bed, etc., will be all left left based for a while, so it needs to be as strong as possible to handle the weight.

We have the requisite shower chair, and toilet bars all assembled and ready to go.  Now it’s just wait until Monday morning.

What's Next?

All research I’ve read says to expect 4-6 weeks of downtime and recovery.  Walking will be a few steps at a time, with a cane or crutches, then gradually increasing.  Physical therapy will be twice a day to re-build the muscle tone around the knee.  

Driving won’t happen for at least two weeks.

And the next Shooting Your Age newsletter will be a few weeks in the future.

So until next time, whenever that happens to be, enjoy Shooting Your Age!

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