After Shoulder Surgery and Focused Physical Therapy at Duke, Golfer Is Back in the Game

By Larissa Biggers
July 08, 2022
Denise Schroeder poses on a golf course with her club over her shoulder

Former elementary school principal Denise Schroeder expected retirement to be leisurely, with more time to devote to golf and other activities she loved. But when shoulder pain left her unable to swing a club -- or even sleep comfortably -- she sought help at Duke Orthopaedics. Today, just six months after shoulder replacement surgery and sport-specific physical therapy, 64-year-old Schroeder is playing better than ever.

A Sporting Life

Sports have always been central to Schroeder’s life. She played volleyball in college, has golfed for over 30 years, and is an avid pickleball player and paddleboarder. Over time, the stress from these activities wore away her shoulder cartilage. In the fall of 2021, when golf became a painful chore rather than a pleasure, she made the trip from her home in Greensboro, NC to meet with Christopher Klifto, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at Duke. After weighing the options, Schroeder and Dr. Klifto decided shoulder replacement surgery was the best option for relieving her pain and restoring her function.

Stronger Than Ever

Schroeder’s shoulder replacement in November 2021 was a success. A week later, she started physical therapy at Duke with June Kennedy, PT. After surgery, most patients meet with Kennedy weekly for about three months until they regain functionality and are pain-free. “Denise wanted to return to athletics, so we extended her rehab and tailored it toward her goals, which are higher-level than a lot of people,” she said.

“My PT was awesome,” said Schroeder. “June geared it toward me. I'm stronger now than I have ever been because I followed the regime religiously.” Schroeder also appreciated the variety of activities offered, including pool work, exercises to strengthen her core and hips, and drills to improve her agility. Kennedy also gave her “homework,” so she could practice what she learned outside of Duke.

Focused PT Improved Her Golf Game

To ensure that she was fully ready to return to an active life, Schroeder decided to take her rehab a step further. After five months with Kennedy, she began working with Thomas Moore PT, a Duke physical therapist and an expert on golf-related injuries and rehabilitation. Moore conducted a video-based motion analysis to assess Schroeder’s swing, stance, and posture and provided advice and training. “He wanted to see what would be best for my shoulder so I wouldn't re-injure it. He taught me to use my body to the best advantage instead of depending on my arm so much. I haven’t had pain since my surgery,” Schroeder said. After five visits with Moore, her medical team cleared her to return to golf.

Back on Course

Today, just six months after surgery, Schroeder is back to the active life she loves. “I play pickleball with an 84-year-old who can beat me, and I'm like, ‘Dang. I hope that when I'm 84 I can be like that.’” Thanks to the care she received at Duke and the active role she played in her recovery, that goal is well within reach.

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