June 2001 Bulletin

Bionic golfers on the greens

Patients find total joint replacement no handicap

James B. Duke, MD, left, watches Frank L. Krause sink a putt. The 71-year-old Krause, who had bilateral knee surgery, was participating in the Bionic Open.

By Sandra Lee Breisch

What do 127 total joint replacement patients in Ocala, Fla. and Tiger Woods have in common? They’re all breaking records on the fairway.

So says James B. Duke, MD, who implemented the "Bionic Open," four years ago. It’s a 9-hole golf tournament that gives patients who’ve had total joint replacement surgeries performed at Associated Orthopaedic Specialists (AOS) in Ocala, Fla., an opportunity to celebrate their new mobility afforded by surgery.

"While Tiger Woods is setting boatloads of professional records, these total joint replacement patients are setting personal records, too, but at the Country Club of Ocala," says Dr. Duke. "They’re achieving world class status for mobility and function by being able to play golf. It shows their commitment to their own recovery and rehabilitation. "For instance, what I always tell my total joint replacement patients is that the final result of the surgery is 50 percent of what I do and then it’s 50 percent of what they do. Patients, obviously take ownership of their own rehabilitation."

The six other orthopaedists affiliated with AOS—Cynthia R. Harding, MD; Steve H. Gilman, MD; Michael K. Riley, MD; Robert J. Brill, MD; Joseph Locker, MD; and Burton W. Marsh, MD—also encourage their total joint replacement patients to get to the greens.

And that they do, whether they’re a novice or experienced golfer, competing for numerous hole prizes—closest to the pin and first, second and third place teams. Other prizes are doled out to those teams that have the most total joint replacements or the oldest person playing.

"Lots of times when a patient and I talk about doing a joint replacement, one of the natural questions they ask is, ‘When am I going to get back to normal sporting activities like golf, bowling or tennis?’" says Dr. Duke. "Because golf is one of those perfect types of activities that doesn’t require any running, jumping or high impact, it’s kind of a perfect fit for joint replacement patients. And, by nature, it’s a social sport that’s enjoyed by men and women."

Years ago, Dr. Duke says he was inspired to host this event after he chatted with Douglas E. Jessup, MD, a total joint specialist at Advanced Orthopaedic Centers in Richmond, Va. In June Dr. Jessup will hold his group’s 12th annual "Bionic Open" golf tournament.

Because Dr. Duke says the interest in the tournament has grown—from 87 total joint replacement players in 1998 to 127 this year—he decided to run two separate tournaments to accommodate more players. "We play the front nine and the back nine," he explains.

In the tournament, each total joint replacement is a handicap. "Patients add up the number of total joints in their four-person group and subtract those points from their score," explains Dr. Duke. "If I’ve got a guy with two knee replacements, someone with two hip replacements, one knee replacement, and one shoulder replacement, there’s six total joints in the group. So, we subtract six from their group score."

Patients are delighted their $12 entry fee is donated to the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation (OREF). "The cause is very important to them," says Dr. Duke. "For example, one of my patients who won the closest to the pin contest returned his $25 gift certificate donated by a golf shop and asked that it be donated back to research. So, we got the money back from that sponsor and donated it to OREF."

This tournament also gives both patients and physicians a chance to establish a fellowship outside the hospital and operating room setting. "We get back tenfold what we put into it because patients really appreciate the fact that we’ve taken the extra time to get out and enjoy an activity with them," says Dr. Duke.

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