Tiger’s back pain.
Tiger Woods withdrew from the 2014 Masters siting surgery for a pinched nerve. This is horrible news for the golf world and probably even worse news for Tiger. In typical Tiger PR fashion he down played the surgery by calling it a "minor surgery" for a pinched nerve when actually it would be better named a serious surgery for a herniated disc.
Granted we are all speculating on this and only Tiger and his doctors know the exact details of his condition and the extent of his surgery, so take all of this blog with a grain of salt. Given the fact that Tiger’s mother is a medical doctor I am certain he consulted her as well on his condition and his treatment. Also we really don’t know how long he has suffered from this problem.
So here we go, my opinion is based on 20 years of treating patients with bad backs and being a board certified sports physician for fifteen of those years. I have also had the pleasure of treating a few PGA golfers.
Hopefully Tiger’s surgery will be beneficial and he will return to Augusta and be competitive. The odds are stacked against him. Several years ago the Ohio Bureau of workers compensation reported that 74% of back surgeries failed and 41% of these patients increased their need and dependence on pain killers.
Tigers’ job requires him to repeatedly twist his back and shoulders while pounding golf balls, we are talking in the thousands of stokes a week, every week. This factor is the single greatest reason I wish he would have taken more time off to let more conservative care help resolve his condition.
Like it or not he now has altered his anatomy making it weaker anatomy. Had he given more time to conservative care his issue would have likely resolved with favorable results. Here is why I say this, he is Tiger Woods, he is very fit, he is not overweight, he does not smoke and he works out regularly and walks a lot. I work with a great neurosurgeon at Washington University, his protocol for surgery is waiting at least 3 months with conservative care in the absence of a progressive neurological deficit. So the caviat here is maybe Tiger did have a progressive neurological deficit, I don't know. His actions in previous tournaments did not show this though, he seemd to walk with an unepeded stride.
I agree for these same reasons he will probably have more favorable results with surgery. There is a lot of research on failed back surgery and smokers that predict very poor results for patients that smoke.
The difference for Tiger is he searching for five more majors; this means he only gets four chances a year to play golf against the very best golfers in the world. Tiger will not be happy with just competing he wants wins.
I think he will return to golf but not at the level he expects after surgery. In the mid 2007 he had ACL surgery that required a drastic swing change to protect the knee. Since then his win have went down in number. This coupled with a back surgery now will only make it harder for him.
I am rooting for Tiger, the Master’s will be a little less the Master’s without him.