We now know why Tiger Woods called the 108th U.S. Open his greatest achievement ever. Woods won his 14th major championship with a stress fracture to his left tibia and anterior cruciate ligament damage that will require season-ending surgery, he reported today on his website.
What Woods did not discuss were the long-term affects of the injury; some of which is obvious, some undetermined. "If he wants to go after [Jack] Nicklaus' record, he'll need a good ACL reconstruction to do it," said Dr. Jim Bradley, team physician for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and a foremost expert on knee surgery. "But this is not career threatening."
It may not be career threatening, but the general message is, it's career interrupting and perhaps career deterring. This would be Woods' second knee surgery in two months and his fourth since 1994. The more operations, the more chance for arthritis, so the window for breaking Nicklaus' 18-major record may not last what was anticipated from a super-human athlete like Woods.
Woods revealed the stress fracture or stress reaction occurred while training following April's knee surgery. According to Bradley, the standard time missed by an NFL player with a similar injury is six weeks. But what makes this a long-term absence from golf for Woods is the ACL repair and rehabilitation. According to sources, he was fitted for an ACL or "uploader" brace two weeks before the U.S. Open, in order to take stress off that part of his tender knee. "You knew after he winced one time and started walking with a flexed leg gait that he was protecting his posterior lateral corner," Bradley observed. "I don't know how he did it. He has got a great mind. He knew it was going to hurt like hell."
Woods proved his will by fighting through the pain at Torrey Pines, but he faces a longer battle now as he manages proper rehabilitation with eventual mental roadblocks. Ernie Els is the most famous modern-day golfer to require ACL surgery. The South African tore up his knee in a boating accident in 2005, came back after surgery in three months, and won almost immediately. But according to swing coaches David Leadbetter and Butch Harmon, Els still favors the knee.
"It's like rebooting a computer," Bradley said. "In pro football, we say we get a guy back (from ACL reconstruction) in six months, but in fact, they're really not right until they go through a full season. It's almost a year's time before they're back to where they were beforehand."
-- Tim Rosaforte