Like many people, When I heard the news about Tiger Woods’ car accident, I was saddened. Not because of who he was as a person (because let’s face it, he has his flaws), but like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, he was a nice looking guy with a winning smile, competitive as one could be, and he rewarded the fans rooting for him … by doing the impossible and finding ways to win.
But this morning, when I saw a NY Post headline that read “Will We Ever See this Again?” and a picture showed Tiger in his red shirt and black pants, raising his hands in victory as he sinks a putt to win The Masters, all I could think was “not a chance.”
I say that, not because of pessimism, but because I’ve learned a great deal of medicine as a trial lawyer, specializing in personal injury law and medical malpractice, and sometimes knowledge outweighs hope.
Tiger woods has had more than 10 surgeries in his lifetime – several on his lower back and several on his knees. His most recent back surgery was 5 weeks ago on his lumbar spine, for which he was still healing. The reports following this accident were that he suffered crush injuries to both legs – a shattered ankle and a compound fracture (the bone exited the skin) to a weight bearing bone in his other leg. These injuries can only be repaired by plates and screws to hold the bones together. These are huge surgeries. While the good news is that bones heal, the bad news is that as bones are badly broken, they also create sharp edges that rip into ligaments and tendons and muscles and cause additional, often more substantial, damage. The bone injuries will also cause Tiger to have arthritis. As a golfer, his job requires him to stand for 4 hours at a time and walk several miles while hitting golf balls. This will create substantial swelling and pain. Even if Tiger could pull off a golf miracle for one day, he wouldn’t be able to compete the second day of a four-day tournament.
On top of that, as mentioned, he already has a damaged back and damaged knees – were they re-injured in the accident? A high-speed impact and roll-over, even with airbags deploying, certainly doesn’t help. Then, of course, he has to stop his daily exercise and therapy sessions with top trainers and rest on his damaged 45-year-old back for at least three months while his legs heal. That will create other issues of spasm and atrophy. We haven’t even discussed set-backs, infection, his overall mental health as he recovers from these injuries, and the fact that his competitors are healthy 25-year-olds.
Do I wish to see Tiger Woods win again? Sure. But no amount of competitiveness or money can repair a 45-year-old body that has been badly damaged, so it can play professional sports again (someone will read this and say “what about Alex Smith” the Washington Football Team quarterback? To that I answer, “in his case we are talking about a leg injury.” Tiger has two legs badly injured, existing knee injuries, a serious back problem and the age factor. There is just too much overall damage to an aging body.
So, I will change my wish – I’d like to see Tiger Woods walk again, and I hope he does it soon.