Tiger Woods’ legendary golf career has been defined by incredible highs, and now his recent 2019 Masters Tournament win also gives him 81 career PGA Tour victories — but in recent years his health woes have stacked up almost as fast as his PGA Tour triumphs. Anyone who watched Woods drop to his knees from a back spasm at The Barclays in 2013 understands the immense pain that plagues the 14-time major champion.
In 2017, Woods underwent his fourth spine surgery in fewer than three years (that’s on top of four previous knee procedures and a nagging Achilles tendon ailment). Then he received a minimally invasive Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF) to relieve his chronic back spasms and sciatic pain in his legs.
Instability in the back can occur due to a number of conditions including herniated discs, degenerated discs, spine fractures and more. The goal of a fusion procedure is to provide stability to the spine and reduce painful symptoms.
During an ALIF procedure, surgeons remove a large portion of degenerated disc that is causing back pain and replace it with a bone graft. One thing that makes this procedure unique and tailor-made for golfers is how the spine is accessed. ALIF procedures provide great results with minimal scarring because the spine is approached through the front of the body, leaving the back muscles and nerves untouched. The result is smaller incisions, less interference with surrounding muscles and tissue, and shorter recovery times.
Tiger Woods' Saga
The saga of Woods back injuries began in 2010, when he first revealed his struggle with cervical pain and bulging discs. In 2014, he withdrew from tournaments due to lower back spasms and later had a microdiscectomy for a pinched nerve. He continued to miss key tournaments before undergoing a second microdiscectomy to remove a disc fragment in September 2015 only to be followed by a third procedure the very next month to relieve more discomfort.
These ailments have led many to wonder whether Woods would ever pick up a club again. But with a seemingly successful ALIF surgery under his belt and now winning his fifth green jacket at the 2019 Masters Tournament, Woods has proven he's still one of the greatest in the game.
In March of last year, Woods clawed his way back to a second-place finish at the Valspar Championship in Florida, just a single shot behind winner Paul Casey his best performance since 2013. Swinging hard and confidently, Woods also scored the fastest club-head speed of the season, a sign that his back was strong and stable.
For the spine experts at AdventHealth, Woods’ success isn't a huge surprise. Outcomes from this procedure are very good when accompanied with a proper recovery time and physical therapy. After an approximately six-month recuperation period, patients must practice proper bending, lifting and twisting techniques before they can safely return to the green.
It’s not uncommon for golfers of every skill level to grit their teeth through recurrent back pain. Research by the Titleist Performance Institute shows that lower back pain is the most prevalent ailment among golfers by a long shot. That’s because the twisting motions of a golf swing can overwork the lumbar spine, forcing it to carry excessive loads. Resulting injuries can include game-ending disc ruptures, bone fractures and degenerative arthritis.
Help in Your Community
AdventHealth’s spine specialists can help you preserve your spine health, or get your game back after an injury.
If you're interested in learning more about the Spine Center of Excellence at AdventHealth Fish Memorial and care options offered, visit our website here.