Tiger Woods: Stress Fracture and Torn ACL

Medical Author: Benjamin Wedro, MD, FAAEM
Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

June 2008 - In the last few months, Tiger Woods has won nine out of the 12 golf tournaments he has entered. So who cares? Whenever he tees it up, it's Tiger against the field, and Tiger always wins. But Tiger has met his match. While his mind was willing, his body has suffered a breakdown.

The medical story goes like this. In the midst of his latest winning streak, Tiger ruined his left knee, tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and damaging the cartilage. Most people can't easily walk with this injury; Tiger played on. In mid-April he underwent arthroscopy to trim the damaged cartilage and began golf practice almost immediately. Without his surgeon's blessing, he played and won the USGA Open 2008. Only afterwards was it revealed that he had sustained a stress fracture in his tibia. The pain on his face could now be understood. It is time to pay the piper. Tiger is done for the year, with knee reconstruction surgery and months of rehab in his future.

One injury is plenty- but two?

ACL tear

ACL tears are the nightmare of running backs and basketball players. The ligament is one of four that hold the knee together and allow it to flex and extend on the right direction. While the medical collateral, lateral collateral, and posterior cruciate ligaments are important, the anterior cruciate is the star. It gets the press. Tear it and you're done for the season. Reconstruction with arthroscopic surgery is an art, and the recovery time is measured in months. Not only does the knee need to get all its range of motion back but the muscles that move the knee -the quads and the hamstrings- need to get their strength back to protect the knee.