Tiger’s Knee’s in Trouble

Mechanism of Injury: Left MCL Sprain & Left Achilles Strain

Tiger Woods has been “in the rough” a few times over the past couple of years.  His latest challenge may prove to be more difficult than a St. Andrews bunker during a Nor’ester.

Tiger’s left knee is bad and the solution is not as simple as the meticulous golf wants it to be.   No matter how hard he works, he’s in for a long road of rehab with an uncertain outcome.  I’ve had many conversations with professional athletes with a similar painful and debilitating knee injuries struggling for a clear answer.

The news that Tiger was withdrawing from THE PLAYERS Championships here in my town of Ponte Vedra Beach, FL at Sawgrass was shocking news to most.  I was not surprised based on the manner in which he was recently injured.  His left knee MCL sprain injury during the Masters in Augusta last month proved to be worse than anyone expected.  Tiger included.

Tiger’s left knee has quietly developed an impressive injury report over the past few years.  That is not a good sign for a right handed golfer with the type of club speed that is such an integral part of Tiger’s game.

Tiger’s left knee was initially scoped in December of 2002 and then again in April 2008 for cartilage damage.  The year before, in 2007, he injured his ACL while running and decided against having it reconstructed.  Based on the way Tiger hits the ball, that wasn’t a smart move.  Playing on an ACL deficient knee probably started the left knee on a downward cycle that proved evident with today’s TPC withdrawal.

Few knew that his April 2008 knee scope was simply an anesthesia appetizer used to get the #1 ranked golfer in the world ready for his famous US Open victory at Torrey Pines over Rocco Mediate.  It proved to be one of the greatest exhibitions of competitive golf made even more magical when Tiger revealed that he was playing with an ACL tear and a tibia stress fracture!  A few weeks later, in June 2008, he was under the knife again to reconstruct his anterior cruciate ligament and clean up his cartilage damage.

When an athlete has damage to both the meniscal cartilage and the articular cartilage at the end of his femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone), the outcome is never good.  Remember that Tiger put a tremendous amount of rotational stress on an unstable knee during the 2007 and early 2008 seasons before he had the ACL stabilized.  It’s safe to say that the damage to both the articular and meniscal cartilage is most likely extensive.  When a golfer’s lead leg has instability and painful cartilage, Newton’s Laws aren’t going to help the flight path of Tiger’s Nike One Tour golf ball.

Is Tiger’s knee more arthritic than expected?  Is there resulting ACL laxity which contributed to the MCL tear and Achilles strain last month?  We all know that Tiger can keep a secret but these are some of the questions that I’m sure Tiger’s medical team are asking tonight.

No one ever questions Tiger’s work ethics nor his ability to play with pain.  I hope he takes the necessary recovery time with his sports medicine specialists to get back to the level of golf that we all want to see him play again.  I’m all too familiar with what he needs to do between now and then.  All I can say is it won’t be easy.

I trust in Tiger’s athleticism and his ability to save par from a bad lie.  It won’t be a fast back swing and it may not be a pretty swing but let’s just wait and see…….hoping to see him sitting pretty on the green and, once again, making it look easy.

Author: Mike Ryan

After 26 seasons as a full-time certified athletic trainer and registered physical therapist in the National Football League, Mike Ryan has outstanding first-hand experience. His unique professional and athletic background has sharpened his skills in the arts of sports injury management, elite rehabilitation, performance enhancement and injury prevention. Mike is now taking his experience to mainstream America. His mission is simple: Sports Medicine advice that is easy to use and brings fast results. Learn more about Mike Ryan

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