As someone raised to admire the defending prowess of Ron Yeats and Tommy Smith, two Liverpool greats of yesteryear, it was perhaps no surprise that I gravitated naturally towards central defence in the days when I could consider myself a footballer.
I was an enthusiastic pupil of Smith’s ‘take-the-man-and-ball’ school of defending, always going in as hard as possible and ensuring that attackers rarely escaped.
Over the years, this ‘thou shalt not pass’ approach, later superseded by a loving re-engagement with running, has taken its toll on my knees.
It reached the point a couple of days ago where I couldn’t walk, an uncomfortable position at any time, but worryingly compounded by a commitment to playing in the Farm Foods British Par 3 Championship three weeks from now.
Hobbling into the doctor’s surgery, I was quickly diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the left knee. That, I thought, sounds like the type of ailment from which an old man might suffer, not what an active, get-up-and-go fifty-something should contract. The doctor believed otherwise and recommended pain killers – or an osteopath. My appointment is next Tuesday.
The golf swing can often compound knee problems and as I’ve played quite frequently of late, the outside of the left knee has clearly been under more pressure.
But it’s not a problem limited to amateurs. In 2005, Ernie Els missed half the season after taking what he described as “the only sensible course of action” and having surgery on his left knee. A couple of years ago, Padraig Harrington reported an “inability to stabilise the left knee, which is causing acute pain.”
Golf hardly suffers from a dearth of information, or the presence of professional expertise, when it comes to helping amateurs develop the perfect technique, but there’s very little on warm-up exercises and stretching.
Athletes of every hue are taught to develop their own warm-up regime. Golfers, by contrast, generally bowl up at the club, take a few practice swings and off they go.
Yesterday, I discovered an exercise designed to stretch the iliotibial tract on the outside of the knee. Iliotibial band syndrome (IBS) is a major cause of knee pain in runners, but also, clearly, in golfers too. It’s not the manliest-looking exercise I’ve ever done, but my word, does it work. All I need now is a decent session with the osteopath and I’ll be starting the countdown to Nailcote Hall…
* Peter Sharkey is playing in the Farmfoods British Par 3 Championship, at Nailcote Hall between 6-9 August. We are following his preparations.