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Tiger Woods’ injuries, explained: What to know about golf star’s surgery, recovery following car crash

Tiger Woods left a Tuesday morning single-car crash in Los Angeles with his life. That’s a basic fact, but it’s important to note because the various reports of what transpired and photos and videos from the scene illustrated how the situation could have been much worse.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Woods was traveling northbound on Hawthorne Boulevard “at a high rate of speed and lost control of the vehicle before crossing the center divider.” Woods was the only person in the car and had to be extricated from the wreckage, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The cause of the crash is being investigated. 

MORE: Tiger Woods car crash details

“I will say that it’s very fortunate that Mr. Woods was able to come out of this alive,” said Carlos Gonzalez, the deputy from the LA County Sheriff’s Department who was the first on the scene (via The Associated Press).

While the news overall was certainly positive, the 15-time major winner does have a long road to recovery ahead of him. Woods suffered significant injuries as a result of the crash and had to be taken to the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center via ambulance and undergo extensive surgery Tuesday afternoon.

Here’s what we know about Woods’ health status and when (or if) he could play golf again.

What are Tiger Woods’ injuries from car crash?

Dr. Anish Mahajan, the chief medical officer and interim CEO of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, described Woods’ injuries in a statement posted from Woods’ official Twitter account at 12:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday.

Mr. Woods suffered significant orthopaedic injuries to his right lower extremity that were treated during emergency surgery by orthopaedic trauma specialists at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, a level-1 trauma center. Comminuted open fractures affecting both the upper and lower portions of the tibia and fibula bones were stabilized by inserting a rod into the tibia. Additional injuries to the bones of the foot and ankle were stabilized with a combination of screws and pins. Trauma to the muscle and soft-tissue of the leg required surgical release of the covering of the muscles to relieve pressure due to swelling.

The statement noted that Woods was “awake, responsive and recovering in his hospital room.”

What is a comminuted open fracture?

A comminuted fracture occurs when the bone is “broken into pieces, which may require surgery for complete healing.” An open fracture, also known as a compound fracture, occurs when the broken bone has pierced through the skin

Dr. Joseph Patterson, an orthopedic trauma surgeon at Keck Medicine of USC in Los Angeles, told The Associated Press that there is a high risk of infection for patients dealing with open fractures.

“Tissue can be exposed to bacteria, dirt and clothing,” Patterson said. ”The outcomes can be a lot worse if that tissue gets infected.”

Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith faced that exact problem after suffering a compound fracture in his right leg in 2018. His recovery was complicated by a bacterial infection following his initial surgery. At one point, medical professionals spoke with Smith about the possibility of amputating his leg.

Eventually, after several surgeries and a rigorous rehab process, Smith was able to complete a “miracle” comeback by returning to the field in 2020.

Will Tiger Woods play golf again?

It’s simply too early to know if Woods will be able to rejoin the PGA Tour in the future. Woods is likely looking at many months of recovery time based on the information currently available, but it’s difficult to formulate an exact timeline.

“Can he come back from this? It’s unclear at this point,” Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told USA Today. ”We don’t know. But it’s going to be a long rehab period and it’s going to be painful. We can assume that he’s going to go through bumps and twists and turns.

“It’s really unclear. But at least he has life right now.”

Tiger Woods surgery history

  • December 1994: Knee surgery
  • December 2002: Knee surgery
  • April 2008: Knee surgery
  • June 2008: Knee surgery
  • April 2014: Back surgery
  • September 2015: Back surgery
  • October 2015: Back surgery
  • April 2017: Back surgery
  • August 2019: Knee surgery
  • December 2020: Back surgery
  • February 2021: Leg surgery

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