Tiger Woods says that his knee and Achilles tendon suffered no new damage during his painful nine holes of play at the Players Championship, and that he will rest and rehabilitate both injuries in the hopes of being ready for next month’s U.S. Open.
On his web site, Woods said, “Aggravating my injury is very disappointing. I’ll do whatever is necessary to play in the U.S. Open and I’m hopeful I can be there to compete.”
Woods’ knee will undergo rest, cold-water therapy and soft tissue treatment, according to the web site.
Dr. Robert Frederick, an orthopedic surgeon in sports medicine at the Rothman Institute, said the injuries to Woods represent a “vicious cycle – you hurt one area and other things start to break down. When one cog in the wheel messes up, all of them get out of whack.”
Frederick, who has worked with the Phillies and served as the U.S. Olympic team physician at the Athens Games, said that with Woods having had his ACL reconstructed and part of his meniscus removed, arthritis can be a concern, meaning persistent swelling and stiffness.
Plus there’s the age factor. Woods is 35 and, as Frederick noted, “As you get older, you find you don’t heal as quickly as when you were younger, and the longer it takes you to come back and get your precision and your timing down.”
Asked if Woods should just shut it down and rest until both injuries have fully healed, Frederick said an elite athlete such as Woods would rather not sit idly for a long period of time.
“It’s much easier for a weekend warrior to accept that kind of philosophy,” he said. “But when you’re dealing with the elite athlete, a football player or baseball or tennis player, you’re dealing with a different type of individual with a different ability and mindset. To take a period of time off and do nothing is not part of the equation. It’s the same with Tiger Woods.”
Frederick also said walking can be a problem when one is operating on a bum knee and a sore Achilles.
“Certainly you have distances you walk during practice and the rounds of a tournament, especially on uneven surfaces of the ground,” he said. “You’re walking up slopes and down slopes. The ground may have different consistencies.
“Combine that with the torque of the swing. All of that puts stress on the joints. But take a joint that’s been operated on several times and could have early arthritis, with the complication of a strained Achilles tendon and an MCL sprain, and the odds start to go against what you’re trying to accomplish in the short term.”
Woods had the ACL in his left knee reconstructed after he won the 2008 U.S. Open. That was his fourth surgery on the joint. He sprained the MCL during this year’s Masters and did not enter another tournament until the Players, from which he withdrew midway through his first round.
So the question remains: Can Woods get his health back to a level where he can add to his total of 14 major victories?
“There is the will but can his body allow the will to translate to the golf course?” Frederick said. “Everyone hopes that time and rehabilitation will allow him to return to his prior dominant position. But certainly one has to have some concern whether he’ll reach that level of consistency once again.”