A new shoulder helps golfer recover his swing

Tom Green (right) with his cousin Rick Vince at Pinehurst, Hole No. 2, Feb, 2013.

Tom Green (right) with his cousin Rick Vince at Pinehurst, Hole No. 2, Feb, 2013.

Thirteen years after a motorcycle accident that nearly destroyed his left arm, Tom Green decided to do something about the residual pain. “I got tired of taking muscle relaxers and pain pills because I was in so much pain with that shoulder,” Green says.

After consulting two shoulder surgeons, Green was told he needed two surgeries—one to remove the plates and screws that held his arm together, another to replace the shoulder. Green didn’t warm to the idea of a two-year recovery, so he kept searching for a surgeon. His third and final stop was Jeff Greenberg, MD, an upper extremity surgeon with expertise in shoulder reconstruction at the Indiana Hand to Shoulder Center, now affiliated with Indiana University Health.

Greenberg examined Green’s medical records, ordered more tests and gave Green some encouraging news. His rotator cuff and socket were in good condition, and Greenberg thought the replacement could be done in one surgery. “That’s a done deal,” Green replied. A few days after Christmas in 2011, Greenberg removed some of the hardware previously placed in Green’s arm, and implanted a new ball in a three-hour surgery.

Afterwards, Green plowed his energy into extensive physical therapy, determined to reclaim his golf game. Ninety days later, he was playing golf on opening day at Wolf Run Golf Club, his home course. “Jeff is a great surgeon, and he’s a golfer, so he knew how important it was for me to play,” Green says.

Naturally, 13 years of limited use has caused some muscle atrophy, but Green can lift his arm above his head, put on a belt using both arms, and sleep on his left side with zero pain. Green is doubtful that he’ll ever recover the strength he had prior to the accident—and that’s okay. “I played golf yesterday, and it was wonderful,” he says. “At least I can take the club back past my hip to a three-quarter shoulder turn. I couldn’t do that before.”

With a handicap that’s still enviable, the 60-year-old golfer says his game is gradually coming back. At the end of the last year’s golf season—his first full season of golf after the surgery—he was shooting in the low 80s on a good day, with an occasional 90. “Fourteen years ago, if I shot a 90, I’d be upset,” Green says. “Now, I don’t care.”

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