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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

To Cut, Or Not To Cut

Last year about this time it was a torn meniscus in my left knee.  Not a big tear, but enough to let me know it was torn every time I took a step.  I tore it in June, on the 8th tee at The Patriot, playing golf with Wes, while I was trying to outdrive him.

Do you think you can finish the round, Mom? he'd asked as he helped me limp back to the cart.


We went straight to the doctor's office, after we finished the round.  Wes chatted about his ACL replacement, assured me that all body parts can be fixed or replaced -- his new ACL came from a cadaver.

I embarked on 6 months of diagnosis and treatment, an MRI, draining fluid, cortisone shots, a very fancy but sartorially offensive knee brace, before I abandoned the middle ground and gave the orthopod with the knife a green light.  He cut.  I rehabbed and altered my stance so I wouldn't do it again, and all's well down there in the knee department.

They're old and creaky, these knees of mine, but I love the way they allow my body to come around when I swing my club.  Having spent 6 months hobbling in and out of bunkers, using my 7-iron as a cane when I searched for my errant shots, carefully finding my way up onto the green and then down again, I now delight in plodding through sand like a camel crossing the Sahara and pretending I'm Dr. Livingstone's assistant while I explore the rough in search of my hiding ball.

But now it's my shoulder, calcification, the orthopod tells me.  Everybody over the age of 40 has some calcification in their joints, he assured me while he showed me the problem on his little shoulder model.  And there's a small tear in your rotator cuff.

Uh oh.  Rotator cuff.  That's a problem.  People are out for months with rotator cuff surgery.  Range of motion is hard to get back.  I watched Aleene struggle with chipping and putting months after rotator cuff surgery.  Now I watch her balls soar again.  But still . . . am I actually ready for that?

I've been to physical therapy, which did increase my range of motion and reduce my pain level, at least temporarily.  I have good days on the course, like last Sunday when I outplayed Barb, and end my round convinced that I can work with this shoulder situation and avoid the knife.

Then I have rounds like yesterday when I can't finish my swing and feel positively geriatric and hopeless and am fairly certain that the knife is the only solution to my problem.

Now's the time if I'm going to do it.   January and February are cold and wet.  Winter golf is as much a contest with the elements as it is an exercise in skill and athletic ability.  I could be a new woman by the time spring golf rolls around.  I could be unbeatable.  I could drive the ball 200 yards, maybe.

To the uninitiated golf appears to be a gentle sport.  After all, look at Laura Davies and John Daily.  Do you think they work out?  I know Gary Player, who edges me out in the age department, believes we can all extend our golfing by tending to our bodies.  I've read Golf Begins at 50.  And I know, in my head, that in order to really enjoy this lifetime sport I need to tend to my body.  With just a little more effort I can avoid most common golf injuries and, for the unavoidable and inevitable wearing of our movable parts, there's always the orthopod with his knife.

But I think I'm going to pay more attention to warming up, slowing down, and finishing my swing before I tell the orthopod to cut again.