June 18, 2008

Tiger's ACL Injury Good for his Golf Game?

In a recent announcement, Tiger claims he's been playing with a torn ACL since just after the British Open last year, and that he will now have surgery to repair the problem. Last week's US Open was the first time Tiger was visibly in pain over that time, a period in which he was arguably the most dominant of his career.

Since the 2007 British Open, Tiger is a staggering 10-3 in the events he's entered, with two 2nd's and a 5th in the other 3 tournaments. He has won the PGA Championship and the US Open, along with the last two tournaments of the inaugural Fed Ex Cup end-of-year showdown. He won 2 World Golf Championships and finished 5th in another. He finished 2nd at the Masters. Many articles earlier this year described Tiger as playing the best golf of his career and everyone thought this could be the year he won the Slam. So how bad was this ACL injury? Did it actually benefit Tiger to have a bad ACL? In the 2007 season prior to the ACL tear, Tiger was a comparatively poor 3-11, with two 2nd's but no victories in the 3 majors. He had 3 finishes outside the top 10, none since the injury.

The media is almost certainly going to use this announcement, which he so carefully withheld until after the US Open when it would either excuse or glorify his performance, to decide that the US Open was the greatest accomplishment EVER in any sport. But was it the ACL that was actually causing any of the pain we saw on TV? Did his operation in the spring actually cause more pain? What about the double stress fracture in his left leg? Did he get the stress fracture rehabbing, or was that also there while he was dominating?

I don't doubt that Tiger was in some pain this last weekend. The question is what caused the pain. The ESPN article does not include any mention of re-injuring or further tearing the ACL, so why have the surgery now? Rehabilitating the stress fracture won't take that long. Woods' website says that the April arthroscopic surgery removed damaged cartilage caused by the ACL. Does that mean that removing the cartilage actually caused more pain and the surgery was counter-productive? What's really going on here? Is the pain from the ACL, the stress fracture, or the surgery in April? Why was the surgery in April necessary when he was so dominant? Clearly, if he can walk 5+ miles on the golf course everyday and take hundred of golf shots, it wasn't interfering with his daily life too much. Maybe he couldn't play on his flag football team because sharp cuts hurt, but his ability to perform at the highest level in the occupation of his choice had never been better. Lots of other athletes, like Steve Nash, play through much greater pain on a daily basis. We have not been given the full story here, and it's painfully obvious that we're being played.

Here's some more information coming from Hank Haney, Tiger's swing coach, who explains and answers some of the questions above. Apparently, the stress fractures were caused by the rehab. Combining that with rushing back on a weak knee probably explains the pain we saw last weekend. I would still speculate that Tiger expected things to improve after the scope, not get worse as they did. It would be interesting to hear Tiger compare the pain at the Masters pre-surgery to that at the US Open.

8 Responses:

big tuna said...

Here we go again...

Why would announcing the injury after the Open serve as an excuse/further glorify the accomplishment? How is that better than announcing it before? Ummm, maybe he just wanted to play the Open at Torrey Pines before going under the knife. Your take on the timing of the announcement is a bit of a stretch.

But Tiger haters will interpret everything he does however they want.

J-Red said...

I think the argument could be made that Tiger didn't want to make the announcement before the Open because it didn't want it to be a distraction/source of criticism (What is he thinking!?!?).

I don't think Tiger would have used the surgery as an excuse AFTER the Open. I think the media would have though.

I'm glad he'll have time to spend with his kid though.

Russell said...

I think the following announcement would have been reasonable: "The surgery did not have the desired effect, and during rehab, Tiger suffered a stress fracture in his left leg. After the US Open, Tiger will have surgery to correct the problems in his knee and be out the rest of the year."

That would have explained why the ACL, which previously had not hampered his play, is now a problem and why he was in so much pain, limiting bloggers like ourselves questioning the media's coverage of the Open. There's no way the coverage of Tiger's pain could possibly have increased over what we already got this weekend. The US Open I saw on TV wasn't about Tiger vs. the field or the course, it was Tiger vs. his pain. The announcement at least would have explained what we were watching.

big tuna said...

I think if he made that announcement before the Open the coverage would have been even worse, if that is possible.

Anonymous said...

As a practicing orthopedic surgeon, I wanted to give some insight on Tiger's injury. Although he will need surgery and rehab, he will most likely be back on the course in no time playing at the same level he does now. ACL reconstructions used to be a coin toss on whether the athlete would ever recover, today new technologies used in the repair make it a simple and reproducible procedure. This animation will make the non scientific person understand what is going to be done - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4EI4kK5MAo

Grace Midyette said...

Just more proof that anyone can get hurt and should work on their knee exercises to prevent this kind of injury. Just a few simple exercises a few times a day increase flexibility and strength in your knee and awareness of yourself and how you move can prevent ACL injuries.

Grace Midyette said...

Just more proof that anyone can get hurt and should work on their knee exercises to prevent this kind of injury. Just a few simple exercises a few times a day increase flexibility and strength in your knee and awareness of yourself and how you move can prevent ACL injuries.

J-Red said...

Awesome. Now we get spammed by medical websites.

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