Quad Cities, IL/IA

Working with the community... for a healthier community.

Injured Golfers Return to the Course Quicker

Michael Dolphin, OD 

Submitted by the Mississippi Valley Surgery Center

Although golf is considered a low-risk sport, injuries can happen. According to the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM), 60 percent of professional golfers and 40 percent of amateur golfers suffered either a traumatic or overuse injury while golfing over a two-year period.

Dr. Michael Dolphin, a board-certified and fellowship-trained spine surgeon with Orthopaedic Specialists, has seen his fair share of golf injuries — especially during the spring and summer months. Orthopaedic Specialists is located in the same complex as Mississippi Valley Surgery Center — the outpatient center where Dr. Dolphin performs many of his surgeries.

“As a spine surgeon, back pain is the most common complaint or injury that I see in patients who are avid golfers,” said Dr. Dolphin. “The second most common types of injuries that orthopedic surgeons see in golfers are injuries to the elbow and shoulder.”

While many of his patients’ back injuries can be treated with rest, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy, there are some cases that require surgery.

When this is the case, Dr. Dolphin is uniquely qualified to perform a minimally invasive outpatient surgery that causes less damage to tissue and dramatically speeds up recovery time. As a graduate of the fellowship program in Spine Surgery at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, Dr. Dolphin learned many of the minimally invasive surgical techniques from some of the best spine surgeons in the country.

Golf Injuries to the Back
Back injuries can occur as a result of the quick and powerful rotation that occurs during the golf swing. Most of these injuries are simply muscle or ligament strains that usually get better in a few weeks with rest, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications — such as aspirin and ibuprofen — and some simple strengthening exercises.

In some cases, more serious herniated disk injuries can occur. Shooting pain or tingling and numbness through the buttocks and legs are symptoms of a disc herniation of the lower spine, which can prevent golfers from using their lower body to establish a strong base for proper balance.

Minimally Invasive Treatment Options

As with most other sports-related injuries, the first course of action is to stop swinging for approximately three to four weeks. In addition, Dr. Dolphin typically recommends anti-inflammatory medication and formal physical therapy.

“Once the pain is gone or lessened we begin to focus on how to prevent future injuries,” said Dr. Dolphin. “This can be done with the aid of strengthening exercise programs prescribed by a physical therapist.”

Although many golf-related injuries can be treated with this approach, surgery is sometimes needed.

“When a herniated disk occurs and conservative treatments such as physical therapy or epidural pain injections do not alleviate the pain, patients may need to have a type of minimally invasive surgery called microdiscectomy,” said Dr. Dolphin. Dr. Dolphin performs nearly 60 microdiscectomies a year as an outpatient procedure at the Mississippi Valley Surgery Center.

Minimally invasive spine surgery uses technology to help the surgeon precisely locate the area upon which they will operate. It also uses technology to perform the surgery more efficiently.

During a microdiscectomy, Dr. Dolphin removes the herniated disc material that is pressing on a nerve root or the spinal cord. By using special lighting, instruments and vision magnification to view the disc herniation and nerve, he is able to make a smaller incision, which in turn causes less damage to the surrounding tissue and results in a faster recovery.

The result is a spine surgery that is a much less daunting experience than it was in the past. For most patients this will translate into physical, psychological, and cosmetic benefits. These include less blood loss, smaller scars, diminished postoperative pain, less damage to muscle and skin, faster and easier rehabilitation and a quicker return to normal activities.

“Patients are usually back home within four to five hours of the surgery, allowing for recovery in the comfort of their own home,” said Dr. Dolphin.

If you have a golf-related injury, take the time to find out if a minimally invasive procedure is right for you.

To learn more about the Mississippi Valley Surgery Center, go to www.mvhealth.net and visit Facebook at facebook.com/MississippiValleySurgeryCenter.

To learn more about Orthopaedic Specialists, visit www.osquadcities.com and visit Facebook at facebook.com/osquadcities or call 563-344-9292.