Tiger Woods, who suffered serious foot injuries in a car accident on Tuesday, usually leads to a long and dangerous recovery, questioning his ability to play professional golf again, according to medical experts who treated similar injuries.
Athletes with severe leg injuries, who thought they would ruin their careers, were able to return. Defender Slex Smith returned to football last season after a terrible leg fracture, and golfer Ben Hogan returned decades ago after a car accident.
But Woods’ injuries are more extensive, and his recovery path is fraught with serious obstacles. Infections, inadequate bone healing և In Woods’ case, previous injuries and chronic back problems can further complicate a month-long or even years-long recovery և may reduce the likelihood that he will play again.
In an accident near Los Angeles, Woods’ right leg was broken and his right leg severely injured. Woods, 45, was treated, Woods wrote in a Twitter post.
Doctors inserted a wand into Woods’s calf bone, screws, pins into his ankle. Doctors familiar with these types of injuries have described the complications they usually cause.
Injuries are more common among drivers involved in car accidents, says Dr. R., head of orthopedic trauma at Boston Massachusetts General Hospital. Malcolm Smith. They usually happen when the driver crashes the brakes when the car gets out of control.
When the front of the car breaks, enormous force is transmitted to the driver’s right foot. “It happens every day in this country because of car crashes,” said Dr. Smith.
“Fractures like the lower leg occasionally lead to ‘mass incapacity’ and other severe consequences,” said Dr. Smith. “The very rough estimate is that there is a 70% chance that it will be completely cured,” he added.
There was a cascade of injuries as a result of the accident. It smashed Woods’ bones, scattering bone fragments at primary breaks in the upper and lower parts of the bones. When Woods’s bones were broken, they damaged muscles and tendons; torn from his skin.
The injury caused bleeding and swelling of the leg, threatening the muscles. Surgeons had to quickly cut a layer of thick tissue that covered his leg muscles to relieve the swelling. Without them, the tissue covering the tumor muscles would act as a trachea, squeezing blood flow. Muscles can die in four to six hours.
It is possible that some muscle died, however, through an “operation”, Dr. Smith said. “Once you lose it, you can’t get it back.”
Patients who have this procedure should stay in the hospital until the muscle swelling subsides. This may take a week or more. Sometimes, even after a few weeks, the tumor has not receded enough to close the wound, so surgeons have to inject the skin through the opening.
Dr. Kyle Eberlin, a rehabilitation surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital, said doctors often have to transplant a bone in the thigh or back to close the holes in the skin, which is called free oscillation. They cut large pieces of skin the size of a ball and, under a microscope, carefully reassembled the small blood vessels, about a millimeter in diameter, from the skin graft to the vessels near the wound.
Dr. Smith says the infection is at risk for fractures that break the skin, push back the bones, and insert needles into the bones. The probability of infection depends on the degree of contamination ից the size of the wound.
In the case of car accidents, gravel և sometimes dirt can get into the wounds, increasing the risk of infection, says Dr. Eberlin.
And opening muscle cover can increase the risk of infection, says Dr. Reza Firozabadi, an orthopedic surgeon at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
At major injury centers, such as the Massachusetts General General or UCLA, free vibration procedures are performed within 48 hours. But it is more common to have surgery within a week of surgery, said Dr. Eberlin.
Recovery will be difficult. “If Woods needed a free swing, which, according to trauma surgeons, would probably take ‘months or months before he could get his weight back on his feet,'” Dr. Eberlin said.
“Woods also risks fractures that do not heal or grow very slowly together,” said Dr. Firozabad. “In order for things to heal, you need good blood flow,” he said. “With such an injury, blood flow is disrupted.”
As a result, he said, Woods’ lower leg bones could take five to 14 months to assume they would do at all.
Dr. Firozabadi and others said that the biggest obstacle would be foot and ankle injuries. Restoring the range of motion can take from three months to a year. Depending on the severity of the injury, even after recovering, Woods can barely walk.
His recovery may be complicated by back surgery in December. Woods also underwent recovery from addiction painkillers. Managing pain during recovery can now be difficult.
Several more athletes have returned from serious injuries. Washington midfielder Smith also suffered a similar leg injury and returned to action in October. But it took two years, 17 surgeries, and on the way he developed a wound infection, sepsis, a life-threatening condition. And Smith had no ankle injuries.
Golfer Ben Hogan broke his spine, pelvis, left ankle and ribs. The injuries were serious but not comparable to Woods’ injuries.
With foot and ankle injuries and serious foot injuries, Woods “can never play golf again,” said Dr. Smith.