Stacy Lewis - Scoliosis Research Society Spokesperson

Pro Golfer Doesn't Let Spinal Curves Clip Her Mojo

Stacy Lewis at the 2014 Reignwood LPGA Classic
Xiao Lu Chu / Getty Images

Stacy Lewis - Scoliosis Research Society Spokesperson

At the 2011 LPGA State Farm Classic in Springfield, IL, a young pro golfer stops to show a nervous 17-year-old the scar from her back surgery. She tells the girl, "It seems really bad now, but in a year, after you’ve had the surgery, you won’t even know anything is wrong with your spine. You’ll be moving on with your life."

Stacy Lewis is not only a champion athlete but a spokesperson for the Scoliosis Research Society as well.

Stacy's Story

When Stacy was 8, she started playing golf for fun with her father. At 11, she received a diagnosis of scoliosis. Her Cobb angle was 45 degrees; doctors generally recommend spinal fusion surgery when the curve (Cobb angle) exceeds 40 degrees.

For years, Stacy’s treatment consisted solely of wearing a hard plastic brace 18 hours a day. The only time she didn’t have to wear it was when she showered and when she played sports.

"I used golf as an excuse not to wear my brace," she says. Later, Stacy continued her involvement with golf because her sights were set on a college scholarship. Golf also provided an outlet to help her get away from what was going on with her back and to be a "normal kid."

Stacy's Scoliosis Surgery

When she was 18, Stacy underwent the surgery recommended by her doctor. Aware that golf was serious business for his patient, her surgeon used a technique that only required the implanting of one rod instead of the customary two.

He also fused fewer vertebrae than usual. "Generally, (surgeons) go in through the back, put in two rods and fuse more levels," she says. For her surgery, the doctor went in through the side.

The surgery reduced her curve to about 20 degrees, which is what the doctor was aiming for, she tells me. "My spine is not perfectly straight, but the results are about the same as the regular scoliosis fusion," she says.

Right after surgery, Stacy went into physical therapy. "I couldn’t bend or twist my spine for six months," she says. Her physical therapy was focused on managing daily activities.

But now Stacy's maintenance program consists mainly of keeping her back muscles very strong. "Golf puts a lot of stress on the back," she informs me. Continual strengthening helps Stacy deal with that stress and to prevent injury, as well.

Stacy went to college in Arkansas on a golf scholarship. In 2007 she came in first at the NCAA Individual Championship (women’s college golf). In 2008, she earned her LPGA Tour playing card by winning the LPGA Qualifying School (Q-School). And in 2011, Stacy came from behind to defeat the No. 1 golfer in the world, Yani Tsen, as she captured the Kraft/Nabisco Championship.

Feb 2016 Update:  Since this article was written in 2011, Stacy has racked up a number of impressive accomplishments in the world of golf.  According to her website she:was ranked #1 in the world (as March 18, 2013) and won the following competitions:

  • RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup, 2013
  • HSBC Women’s Champions, 2013
  • LPGA Player of the Year, 2012 (1st American to win in 18 years)
  • Mizuno Classic, 2012
  • Navistar LPGA Classic, 2012
  • ShopRite LPGA Classic, 2012
  • Mobile Bay LPGA Classic, 2012

In Stacy's Words

As spokesperson for the Scoliosis Research Society, Stacy receives emails from kids and parents regularly. One email was so touching she forwarded it to the society. A little girl needed the scoliosis surgery, but her parents couldn’t afford the deductible from their insurance. The Scoliosis Research Society located a doctor from Miami Children’s Hospital, who performed the procedure for free. "That’s why I love my position as spokesperson," Stacy concludes.

Sources:

Phone Interview. Stacy Lewis. 2011.

Stacy Lewis. The Official Website of LPGA Player of the Year: Stacy Lewis. Accessed Feb 2016. http://www.stacysback.com/bio.php

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