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Tiger Woods' Injuries 'Significant,' Long Recovery Predicted

This story was updated throughout on Feb. 24, 2021.  

Feb. 23, 2021 – PGA legend Tiger Woods faces a lengthy recovery following surgery to repair broken bones in his leg and a shattered ankle, an orthopedic expert said.

Woods, whose car ran off a Los Angeles area road Tuesday, had “significant” injuries to his right leg, foot and ankle according to a statement Tuesday by Anish Mahajan, MD, chief medical officer and interim CEO of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, where Woods had surgery.

Multiple “open fractures affecting both the upper and lower portions of the tibia [shin bone] and fibula [calf bone] bones were stabilized by inserting a rod into the tibia,” the statement says. ”Additional injuries to the bones of the foot and ankle were stabilized with a combination of screws and pins.” In addition, there was trauma to the muscle and soft-tissue of the leg that required surgical release of the covering of the muscles to ease pressure due to swelling.

Scott D. Boden, MD, chair of orthopedics at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, reviewed public information about Woods’ injuries and treatment for WebMD.

“This is a severe leg injury,” Boden says. “The  comminution means multiple fragments [of bone], and open means the skin was penetrated, both suggesting a high energy injury.”

The need to relieve the covering of the muscles, he says, means there was abnormally high swelling, and that can potentially affect the nerves or blood vessels. “We don’t know  yet about nerve damage, but hopefully not.”

As for the recovery, ”physical therapy will likely be needed as part of the rehabilitation plan. Depending on the details of his foot and ankle injuries, which were not provided, this could take 6 months to 2 years.”

Even so, Boden says he expects Woods to be able to walk again. As for his ability to compete, ”it really depends on the details of the foot and ankle injuries and if they affect the joint surfaces and cartilage.”

Boden says he is hopeful, however. “Bottom line, if anyone can make it back from this, Tiger can. I would not want to ever count Tiger out from a comeback.”

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