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Opinion & Analysis

Golfers benefit from new knee replacement technology



Last fall, my father-in-law joined the more than 650,000 total knee replacement patients of 2013[1]. He is a long-time golfer and had been struggling to play due to his moderate to severe knee pain for several years. Finally, the pain was too much to handle and he decided it was time for a knee replacement.

The most common reason golfers have knee replacement surgery is due to osteoarthritis. This is a mechanical condition where the “cushion” of the knee, called cartilage, wears out and the bone rubs against the bone with movement. Osteoarthritis can be very painful and highly agitated by the action of the golf swing.

Despite major advance and modern technology, Jim was one of the growing number of patients that would describe his experience as “traumatic” and “highly disappointing.” Enduring months of severe pain, a revision surgery and still being unable to return to golf after eight months, Jim is now struggling with the decision of whether or not to have his other knee replaced. Is it worth it?

Studies have shown that between 14 and 39 percent of people who have had a knee replacement are “dissatisfied” with their implant or reported “results below their expectations.” (Noble, P et al., Bourne, R et al., Scott, C et al.)

With the demand for total knee replacements expected to rise by 673 percent by the year 2030[2], it is highly likely that you or someone you know will soon be considering your surgical options.

Will you be able to return to an active lifestyle that includes pain free golf or will you be one of the 54,000 U.S. patients needing additional surgery for revisions?

knee replacement complication rateChart from

Fortunately for us, science and technology continue to advance and we can now benefit from a major breakthrough in knee replacements. I recently had the pleasure to interview Dr. Gregory Martin. Dr. Martin is a board certified orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in hip and knee arthritis and other painful disorders and is one of a growing number of surgeons who traded in the traditional total knee protocol in favor of a fully customizable procedure through Conformis Customized Knee Replacements.

Q&A with Martin

In the past, a “custom fit knee replacement” meant that the instruments for fitting the knee were custom for the patient but that the actual knee was an off-the-shelf implant that comes in only a few different sizes. How is Conformis different?

“It’s no different than the fit of a suit coming in a variety of sizes versus the precise fit of a custom suit. Only with a suit, being off in fit by a small amount may not matter, but with an implant, precision fit is critical. People come in all different shapes and sizes and Conformis believes so should their knee implants. Conformis is different because they make customized, individually made implants along with instrumentation specifically made for the patient that helps the surgeon put the implant in correct.

Also, the knee has three parts to it and sometimes they are not all damaged. With Conformis, because a CT SCAN is taken as part of the process, if the patient is found to have damage in only one part or two parts of the knee, then a customized partial knee can be made. Partial knees have had a resurgence in popularity because of the ease of recovery and improved satisfaction.

How can custom fit components make a difference in the outcomes for patients?

Although total knee replacement helps most people, studies show as many as 1 in 5 patients remain not satisfied with their outcome after surgery. Persistent pain after surgery is a major factor in these patients. We now know that implant size plays a significant role in causing persistent pain.

Studies have shown that if an implant is too big by just 3 millimeters, it can double the risk of persistent pain after knee surgery. By making the implants fit precisely, the hope is that we will see higher satisfaction rates, which is what I am seeing in my early data.

What differences can patients expect to experience during rehabilitation?

I have seen my customized knee patients recover in about half the usual time. What I am used to seeing at three months, I now see at six weeks. The patients have less swelling, improved range of motion and function sooner. Why? Because bleeding around the knee and swelling after total knee surgery makes rehabilitation painful and difficult.

With the customized knees, the instrumentation and surgical technique is less traumatic, less bone is removed, and all of the bone that is cut is covered with implant because the fit is precise. So what we see is significantly less bleeding and swelling. Blood transfusions that are fairly common with non-customized total knees (around 10 to 20 percent in most studies) are quite rare with customized total knees (1 percent or less).

knee replacement big

Can patients expect a difference in time in regards to returning to normal daily activities? Returning to more active activities?

Return to daily activities varies from patient to patient, but as a whole, I would say that my customized knee patients generally recover much sooner. I typically can get the customized knee patients out of the hospital either the afternoon of surgery or after one night, versus two to four nights for my non-customized knee patients. I see a lot more people doing activities that they enjoy at six weeks after surgery than I ever saw before.

One patient, who I recently saw at his six-week follow up, comes to mind. He had a non-customized knee I did a few years ago and he did well but took him at least three months to get back to a normal life. When I did his other knee with the Customized implant and saw him back at his six week follow up, he had just got back from a cruise and was dancing with his wife and happier than ever.

For partial knee patients, I have seen many golfing at four to six weeks and total knees at six to eight weeks. This level of activity would be unusual this early for my non-customized knee patients.

What are the advantages of choosing a Conformis custom knee replacement over an off-the-shelf replacement, specifically for golfers wanting to return to sport?

Although recovering quickly is important and we should always look for ways to get people better sooner, what really is more critical is the long-term outcome. Although many patients after total knee replacement are out of pain, they may not be able to do the things that they want to do like golf or other activities. They say the knee doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t feel like their knee.

The thought behind Conformis customized total knees is that by making the implant sized and shaped like the individuals own knee before it was damaged, the knee will feel more natural and allow people to resume more activities that they love to do.

Can you briefly talk about the technological advances that had to occur to allow for a process such as what Conformis is using to advance knee replacements?

Conformis was founded with the idea that modern technology and imaging techniques can be utilized to make better implants. A CT scan is taken to get precise pictures of the knee. The data in that scan is sent to the company and computer automated design (CAD) technology is used to map the knee and create an implant.

The instrumentation, which is all single use and disposable, is created on 3D printers (as opposed to traditional knee instruments which are re-used and must constantly go through re-sterilization). With Conformis, the entire kit is shipped to the hospital in a sterile box with the implant and the instruments. It is 21st Century technology at its best.

osteoarthritis and

Is there anyway to know, prior to surgery, if a person is a better candidate for a custom knee (anyway to know if an off-the-shelf knee would be difficult to fit perfectly)?

We know that people come in all different shapes and sizes on the outside, and their knees look just as different on the inside. Other implant companies have realized this over the years and have created gender specific implants and have increased the number of sizes available with their non-customized knees. However, this may help fit more patients, but will never fit all patients.

Only true customized technology can achieve a perfect fit. After talking with my patients and giving them choices of implants, invariably they wish to have a customized knee. But there are some patients where a customized knee is not appropriate at this time (eg. cases with severe deformities, damage to major knee ligaments, or loss of bony landmarks which would make recreating the knee difficult).

Is there any difference in cost to the consumer when compared to traditional total knee replacement procedure?

Typically in the United States, implant costs are negotiated and covered by the hospitals or insurance companies. Generally, with the exception of any related co-pays for the CT scan required, there are no additional costs to the patient receiving a customized knee implant.

If someone was interested in having a customized knee replacement with the Conformis knee, how should they proceed? 

Visit to learn more about the technology, hear patient’s real experiences and utilize the “find a doctor” feature to find a surgeon using the technology

If patients are interested in your service, what is the best way to contact you or your office?

My practice is in Palm Beach County, Fla., and my information can be found at


In conclusion, the overall success rate of total knee replacements are good. But in my years of physical therapy, I have experienced both the good and the bad. If you are considering a total knee replacement, we have found that the success of the surgery is largely dependent on two factors: the quality of the product and the skill of the surgeon.

As a result, the advice that I always give to golfers considering knee replacement is this:

  1. Visit to find surgeons in your area using this technology.
  2. Get surgeon referrals from two to three local physical therapists who treat patients recovering from total knee replacements. Physical therapists have extensive experience treating the patients of local surgeons and will know which ones have the best results.

If you have any questions or comments, please respond below and we will be happy to respond.

[1] Knee Replacement Statistics:

[2] Arthritis Related Statistics CDC:

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Doctor of Physical Therapy and Certified Golf Performance Specialist, Dr. Ryan York has been working exclusively with golfers between the ages of 50-75 since 2008. York co-directs Age Defying Golf at which is dedicated to improving Golf Performance, reducing the effects of “age”, and resolving golf related pain in golfers between the ages of 50-75.




    Mar 30, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    I went thru a four year period getting uflexxa shots before i knew the only solution to getting back to great golf again was a PKR. I consulted six doctors. I had done my research and knew i only needed a Partial. but the first four doctors i went to tried talking me into a full replacement. Witha full they cut your ACL, MDL and remove your PCL. It will always feel artificial and the recovery is brutal. I was golfing after six weeks. I had a lateral PKR on my right knee-i was bone to bone from a torn worn down menicus. I know have a perfect working right knee that i can “load’ into again and have regained 20 plus yards on my drives and 10 MPH on my swing speed. I hope to regain my scratch hdcp soon.

  2. Pingback: In the News | The Joint Replacement Center of Scottsdale

  3. Patrick

    Jul 2, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    I have had my right knee and left hip replacement. First was my left hip due to a sports injury. I had to donate blood and took a couple of shots of EPO prior to surgery . Great surgeon but having been a professional athlete I was very disciplined on recovery and rehab. My initial goal was to walk without limping. Next was my right knee.
    This was number five on the right knee due to a botched initial surgery 30 years ago. Subsequent surgeries were for cartilage remove and then the dreaded night tibial osteotomy.
    So honestly both surgeries took the better part of five years to be mostly pain free and more importantly, I could walk and golf without pain.
    My advice for those considering either, lose weight and do exactly what the surgeon says. Look at this as an opportunity to get your mobility back. Surgeons are very good these days and want you to do well.

  4. Jim

    Jun 30, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    I’ve had both my knees replaced and am playing as well as I ever have. First, as Nat said, find a good surgeon. I did and I talked to several before choosing. I’ve had no complications at all. Also I agree with Nat that doing your rehab is VITAL. This means at HOME as well as the therapy center. You have to do most rehab on your own. I have good old standard knee replacements but with the modern liners to last longer. My doctor fitting them perfectly and I too was back hitting balls with wedges in about 6 weeks.

  5. Nat

    Jun 29, 2014 at 9:31 am

    I had TKR in November, was back hitting balls in 6 weeks, walking 18 in 3-4 months. I was 50, had no cartilage in my knee since 20 due to college sports injury. This is the best thing I’ve ever done. I am back to elliptical 1 hr a day and golf, typically walking. I won’t lie….it was a hard recovery, but I was extremely diligent with my therapy and stretching. My advice: be in best shape you can be prior to surgery; be prepared to be in pain and work very hard in rehab. It only lasts 3-6 weeks, but the pain is there. Not ouch pain, just generalized discomfort; last, donate blood ahead of time. You lose a lot, and you’ll likely needed a transfusion.
    Also, you do not need a custom knee. That is a gimmick. You need a skilled surgeon who does a lot, a great physical therapist, and a caring spouse.

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Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Off-Season training + Exciting announcement for Wisdom in Golf



There’s a time to play and perform in golf. Then there is a time for a break and group; then there is a time for training so that when the season for playing golf returns you are more PRO-ficient than ever. This is the anti-stagnation system.

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On Spec

On Spec: The DIY episode talking fitting, and personal launch monitors



This episode is all about giving you, the golfer, the opportunity to better understand your equipment and club fitting. Topics range from club length, lie angle, wedge fittings, all the way to diving into personal launch monitors.

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Opinion & Analysis

WRX Insider: How the Callaway tour staff matches up golf ball and irons



It’s not something that is widely explored. When it comes to the golf ball, we typically prioritize driver numbers, wedge numbers, and feel. In actuality, however, it’s a player’s irons that need to be optimized more than anything. Full shots, 3/4, fades, draws—the shot varietal with irons is all over the map.

So, when testing players, how does the team at Callaway dial in the ball and the irons to work in harmony with each other?

With the new Callaway X Forged and Apex MB just hitting the scene, it seemed like a perfect time to understand how the players on tour fit the ball to the irons and vice versa.

I had a chance to speak with Callaway Golf Ball R&D specialist Nick Yontz and Director of Tour Operations Jacob Davidson on dialing in the ball and the irons to match up with the best players in the world.

JW: How much do you depend on Nick’s expertise throughout the season, especially with new irons (X Forged and Apex MB) having just hit the market?

JD: Any time we launch a new product, it’s essential for the tour team to know how the new product will perform. Nick provides in-depth data on how our golf ball will perform with the new products. When you look at the golf bag, there is one constant variable and that’s the golf ball. Our ultimate goal is to collaborate with the iron engineers and golf ball engineers to design a product that works together to help golfers play better. Nick Yontz is a tremendous resource for our tour team and has worked closely with several major winners in his career. We lean on him weekly for insight into in-depth product performance and future prototype products.

JW: When considering the spin off of the irons for a player like Xander, is he working around one number or are the multiple spin windows to hit?

JD: Spin rates can vary from player to player depending on clubhead delivery and launch numbers. Currently, we’ve worked hard to get Xander’s iron spin rates into a range that we feel allows him to hit a variety of shots to play his best golf.

JW: Let’s look at an LPGA profile for a player like Anne van Dam. Where does Chrome Soft X benefit her the most? 

NY: The Chrome Soft X has blended with Anne’s club set up in a way that she can be an excellent driver of the golf ball, while better controlling iron and wedge spin rates compared to her previous golf ball.

JW: If a player is looking for a higher launch window with the irons, what tweaks are you making, all while honoring the specific DNA of a player’s bag?

JD: There are several different levers we can move in order to raise the launch window. However, in order to determine which lever makes the most sense you have to fully understand the player’s bag. In order to do this, each club has to be studied deeply to know the cause and effects of a change. After we have completed this process, we will look at what options will best fit the player.

JW: As you look at the numbers, where do you see the improvements (gains) with the CS X vs what you saw with previous balls?

NY: Across the board, we’ve seen measurable ball-speed gains on the launch monitor during player testing sessions. It’s exciting for them and us when they reach driver ball speeds (and distances) that they couldn’t before!

JW: On the PGA Tour, is there an overall RPM profile that all players chase or is it player specific?

*question based on general rule of number on club x 1000 RPM IE 7 iron spins at 7000 RPM

JD: Our goal at Callaway is to move all of our staff players into optimal ranges in an iron spin. Our 2020 golf ball and the iron lineup has allowed us to move several players bags into a more optimal range this year. We work closely with the player, instructor, and caddie to constantly find ways to improve performance.

JW: In regards to working with a Champions Tour Player that has gone from Balata into CSX. Is that player still playing out of the same launch windows that he has for years or is he having to adjust for new technology?

NY: There are some differences in modern equipment that we hear from players that have played over multiple decades. The shape of the trajectory is an example. Current trajectories can look flatter or may get up higher sooner in the flight than a balata did. Players who have experienced balata and modern balls also talk about the amount of lateral movement being less today.

JW: Discuss how you guys work together on a week to week basis. What does it look like?

JD: Nick is an excellent resource for the tour team. Each week, we are providing feedback and observations to him from what we are seeing and hearing across all the major tours. Throughout the year, Nick will attend several tour events allowing us to work closely together with players on the range tee or on the golf course.

NY: Jacob and the entire tour team knows each tour player at the deepest level. For example, knowing each player’s swing tendencies and look preferences enhances the raw numbers we collect. Tour players are the best product testers in the world that push us to make better equipment.

JW: Can you both talk to me about the importance of spin with your irons?

JD: It’s much easier to take spin off than to add it from the fairway. The majority of shots that a tour player hits during a round of golf will be off-speed. When you reduce speed, spin also reduces. We’ve found that when we are fitting a player to a golf ball and irons, it’s imperative to pay close attention to how much reduction in spin comes from off-speed shots.

NY: Completely agree with Jacob. While we will do work on the driving range with a player, we need to see how it performs on the golf course in different situations as well (fairway/first-cut/rough, headwind/downwind/morning dew…)


It may seem trivial, but to me, this is the secret sauce of really making a bag and fitting work for you. Pay attention to ball speed and launch but mostly spin rates. If the ball doesn’t spin you can’t control it—I don’t care how high it goes or steep it lands.

In the past year, I have focused way more on proper spin with my irons than ever before. What I have found is when 4-PW are in the right spin windows, which for me is around 6,800 RPM with a 7 iron, my iron play has improved dramatically.

See the PGA and LPGA TrackMan averages from 2019 below. At my age and speed, I actually strive to stay right in between the averages for both tours. It’s not only realistic for me but also has actually helped.


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