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Is Golf a Good Idea After Bariatric Surgery

man in backswing teeing off on golf course

Over the past several decades, golf has exploded in popularity and remains one of the most popular sports in the United States. Like other sports, golf places unique stresses on the body, and today, we will discuss whether playing golf is a good idea after bariatric surgery. This can be especially important for our local Las Vegas patients who consider our local golf scene to be a benefit of living here. Golf isn’t typically associated with extreme physical activity and highly athletic players, though recent years have seen renewed interest in golf-centric fitness. It’s one of the few sports that can be played as long as your body can handle it – often into your 90s. But bariatric patients have particular physical limitations – do they interfere with golf?

The first and most important thing to remember is that if you are very obese, whether you have recently had bariatric surgery or are looking to have it, the excess weight can be problematic for your golf swing. Because of arm-swing limitations due to a larger abdomen, you might be putting a lot of twisting pressure on your back to make a full golf swing. This can be very damaging to the spine; therefore, we suggest limiting the speed of the golf swing and taking it easy. However, as you lose weight, this concern starts to diminish.

When to Get Back Into Golf

Typically, patients can return to their golf game within 12 weeks of their bariatric surgery, understanding that any strenuous movements that cause pain should be avoided or stopped. This is purely to prevent the potential of a significant injury that could sideline you shortly after surgery. Remember that general physical activity is important after bariatric surgery, so taking it easy and slowly increasing exercise levels is preferable to going full bore from day one. We suggest starting on the practice range and putting. Get a feel for your short game – after all, that’s the most critical part of the game! After a week or so of putting practice, move on to chipping and pitching from there, starting with short irons on the driving range. Eventually, you can work your way up to your woods and driver, but recognize that you will probably try to hit them harder and potentially tweak something.

As You Lose Weight, There Are Some Considerations Regarding Golf

First, while golf may seem relatively passive, mainly if you use a cart, you still put tremendous pressure on your knees and back when playing golf. Be sure to warm up as you would for any strenuous sport, and once warmed up, start to stretch to make sure that you are limber and ready for the full golf swing. Depending on your age, you may need upward of 15 minutes to warm up.

After bariatric surgery, you may find that you experience some back pain. This results from weakened musculature in the back and stretched ligaments that can cause discomfort. You should work with a physical therapist or exercise physiologist to ensure your back and legs are ready for this new strain. Core and back exercises are critical to developing proper form and ensuring injury-free enjoyment of the game.

On the positive side, as your girth shrinks, you will have a better range of motion, and your arms can swing more freely, allowing you to hit the ball further and reducing overall strain during your golf game. Many avid golfers, whose game suffered as they gained weight, begin to regain their confidence and ability after bariatric surgery.

Golf is a great opportunity to get out and walk, combining cardio with enjoyable activities. If you can, and it doesn’t slow down your game too much, try to park the cart on the cart path and walk to your ball. This will get you thousands of extra steps over the course of the day. If you are out on the course a couple of times a week, this can boost your exercise.

You may have been used to drinking beer or other alcohol on the golf course. Just because it’s hot and you are sweating does not mean the beer is less problematic. Within the first six months of bariatric surgery, you should not have any alcohol. After that, you should consume it very much in moderation. Try avoiding alcohol entirely while on the course so that you can stay on track with your diet and your game.

Bottom Line

As with any sport that strains muscles or joints, golf can be pursued and enjoyed after bariatric surgery – with caveats. Most importantly, don’t overdo it. Those who take their time and understand getting back into golf is a process and not something they can do overnight are usually the ones who enjoy their game more and are less prone to injury. Of course, if you feel pain while playing golf or doing any sport, stop and modify your activity levels.

Should you have any questions about this or other physical activity after bariatric surgery, we encourage you to contact the office or speak to your physical therapist or primary care physician to understand more. We look forward to seeing you enjoy and pursue a sport you may not have been able to for a while.