Return to golf after adult degenerative and deformity spine surgery: A preliminary case series of how surgery impacts golf play and performance

Scott L. Zuckerman, Anton Gillespie, Mena G. Kerolus, Ian A. Buchanan, Alex S. Ha, Meghan Cerpa, Eric Leung, K. Daniel Riew, Lawrence G. Lenke, Ronald A. Lehman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Golf is a commonly played sport among older adults, and degenerative and/or deformity spine pathology can severely impact older individuals’ ability to play golf. In a cohort of self-identified, avid golfers undergoing degenerative or deformity spine surgery, we report their: (I) presentation, (II) operative treatment, and (III) return-to-play (RTP) process. Methods: A retrospective case series of self-identified, avid golfers undergoing spine surgery at a single institution from 2015–2019 was undertaken. Demographic, presenting, operative, RTP data, along with numerical rating scale (NRS) pain scores were collected. The first and full RTP time postoperatively, in addition to the following golf metrics: 18-hole rounds per month, handicap, and self-perceived effort/ performance were obtained. Results: A total of 6 golfers were included, 3 undergoing each degenerative and deformity operations. Mean age was 60 years, and 5 of 6 (83%) patients were female. All patients were self-identified, avid golfers with a mean experience of 31 years. Mean preoperative NRS back/neck pain was 9.7, which decreased to 0.8 postoperatively (P<0.001). Players undergoing smaller operations (lumbar fusion/cervical laminoplasty) returned to golf sooner than patients undergoing larger deformity corrections, with a mean first RTP of 4.3 months for degenerative patients vs. 9.7 months among deformity patients. All patients played either the same or more rounds of golf after surgery once they reached full RTP. The handicap of all players improved after surgery to better than before surgery, except for one high-level golfer with a handicap of 9 preoperatively that went to 15 postoperatively following an extensive revision deformity reconstruction. Conclusions: All patients returned to playing golf at or more frequently than their preoperative status. Degenerative patients returned to play sooner than deformity patients. All patients performed at a higher level after surgery, except for one high-level golfer whose handicap worsened slightly. These data provide baseline information for future prospective studies of golfers undergoing spine surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-299
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Spine Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Deformity spine surgery
  • Degenerative spine surgery
  • Golf
  • Return-to-play
  • Sport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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