Local experts weigh in on Tiger Woods’ tough recovery ahead

California

SAN DIEGO — Golf star Tiger Woods is recovering from surgery on his leg and ankle after his SUV swerved off the road and rolled down a steep hillside Tuesday morning, requiring crews to pry him from the wreckage.

The crash caused “significant” injuries all down his right leg that featured rods, pins and screws during what was described as a “long surgical procedure” by Orthopedic trauma specialists at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

A statement posted on Woods’ Twitter account late Tuesday said Woods was “awake, responsive and, recovering in his hospital room.”

“He’ll definitely be followed by his surgeons for quite some time,” said Dr. Cameron Barr, an orthopedic surgery specialist with Scripps Clinic who has a subspecialty in the surgical care of complex foot/ankle and lower extremity fractures and musculoskeletal issues.

“I think one question is: is this the one surgery that he needs or he might need additional surgeries after this, depending on the severity of the injuries? Sometimes it’s going back to the operating room several times to deal with the injuries that he has.”

Dr. David J. Chao, who runs the popular sports injury site Pro Football Doc and had 17 years’ experience as an NFL team head doctor, also weighed in Wednesday.

“At least it’s good news they’re not operating on his spine,” he told FOX 5. “I mean he’s had a spine fusion, five spine surgeries, the last one two months ago. The fact that there wasn’t emergent surgery on his spine, at least was good news.”

The single-vehicle crash happened just before 7:12 a.m. PST on the border of Rolling Hills Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes. Woods was trapped inside the SUV and had to be extricated from the vehicle by first responders. They used a halligan bar to pry open the windshield and an ax to help remove Woods from the SUV.

“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 Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who was the first on the scene after a neighbor called 911.

A crane is used to lift a vehicle following a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in the Rancho Palos Verdes suburb of Los Angeles. Woods suffered leg injuries in the one-car accident and was undergoing surgery, authorities and his manager said. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

No charges were filed, and police said there was no evidence he was impaired. The crash remains under investigation.

“As if his body hasn’t endured enough,” Jon Rahm, the No. 2 player in the world, said from the Workday Championship in Florida. “I just hope he can get out of the hospital after recovery and he can still play with his kids and have a normal life.”

It was not immediately clear what effect the accident might have on his career.

Jack Nicklaus, Michael Jordan, Mike Tyson, and former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump were among many sending their thoughts and prayers after the crash. Woods played golf with both previous presidents, and Trump awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2019.

Woods is among the most recognizable sports figures in the world, and at 45 with a reduced schedule from nine previous surgeries, remains golf’s biggest draw.

He won the 2008 U.S. Open with shredded knee ligaments and two stress fractures in his left leg.  And then after four back surgeries that kept him out of golf for the better part of two years, he won the Masters in April 2019 for the fifth time, a victory that ranks among the great comebacks in the sport.

The 15-time major champion last played Dec. 20 in the PNC Championship with his 11-year-old son, Charlie. He had a fifth surgery on his back, a microdiscectomy, two days before Christmas and gave no indication when he would return.

The 45-year-old had hosted the annual Genesis Invitational at the Riviera Country Club over the weekend but did not compete due to the ongoing issues with his surgically-repaired back. The Masters is April 8-11 and when asked Sunday if he would be there Woods replied, “God, I hope so.”

He was to spend Monday and Tuesday filming with Discovery-owned GOLFTV, with whom he has an endorsement contract.

This is the third time Woods has been involved in a vehicle-related investigation. The most notorious was the early morning after Thanksgiving in 2009, when his SUV ran over a fire hydrant and hit a tree. That was the start of revelations that he had been cheating on his wife with multiple women. Woods lost major corporate sponsorship, went to a rehabilitation clinic in Mississippi and did not return to golf for five months.

In May 2017, Florida police found him asleep behind the wheel of a car parked awkwardly on the side of the road. He was arrested on a DUI charge and said later he had an unexpected reaction to prescription medicine for his back pain. Woods later pleaded guilty to reckless driving and checked into a clinic to get help with prescription medication and a sleep disorder.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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