The golfing champ’s comeback speaks a lot about a breakthrough surgery and his resilience and will power
After facing a drought of major wins for 11 years due to multiple injuries and being written off as a has-been, US golfer Tiger Woods stunned the world by winning the fifth Masters Title at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.
“It’s been 22 years between my first Masters win and this one, that’s a long time. But I couldn’t be more happy and more excited,” said Woods before donning the ceremonial Green Jacket, a celebration of a story of resilience likd no other.
His comeback followed embarrassing personal problems and major spine surgeries and is a triumph of both mental and physical healing.
Earlier, many people and critics were apprehensive about his comeback to the game when he announced that he had undergone an anterior lumber interbody fusion. The golfing community also thought that his competitive golf career was over.
Last April, he underwent his fourth back surgery since March 2014, which involved removing the L5-S1 intervertebral disc and then inserting fusion material to connect the L5 and S1 vertebrae.
As per the doctors, the surgery is rare among sports persons, especially professional golfers, even as Tiger showed a good sign of recovery in the earlier surgeries. They say only one other PGA player, Dudley Hart, had had a fusion of the same kind as Woods.
Miracle surgery that helped the Master to come back
According to reports published in international media, Tiger Wood underwent minimally invasive lumbar fusion in the spine where the fifth spinal vertebrae meet the first vertebrae of the sacrum, which is an area where there is almost no rotation.
“The material inserted between the vertebrae is designed to adhere and harden, preventing more disc fragments or fluid leakage from contacting the nerves in the area,” said a report published on forbes.com.
It said the surgeons performed the fusion on the golfer’s back via an anterior approach by sparing the large muscles of the back that are critical to the golf swing in order to make the recovery for the athlete a bit easier.
“In this kind of surgery metal screws and rods are also placed to brace the bone graft and fusion to maximize stiffness in the region,” the report said.
The athlete is also advised to wear a brace for three months after the surgery while his activities are limited to walking during the first 12 weeks. And to verify the usual progress of bone healing, X-rays are obtained. During 12 to 16 weeks, a light stretching therapy is suggested, which involves abdominal and low-back muscle stretching.
After 24 weeks, the athlete can begin as per the recommended workout as per the requirement of his game. The golfers can typically start playing full rounds by eight months after surgery although he should minimise stress off the back.
The Forbes also quoted a study which found 77 per cent players were able to play the same amount of golf as before fusion surgery, or more even as there is very little literature describing the relationship between lumbar fusion recovery and golf.
Damian Fahy, consultant spinal surgeon who advised Tiger Woods to undergo his ‘career-saving spinal surgery” told the Telegraph that Woods was in pain almost 24 hours a day before he had spinal fusion surgery in 2017.
“I spent several days with Woods deciding on how best to treat his lower-back problems and the first ambition for his treatment was simply to ease that pain and that returning to playing golf at any level was seen as a bonus,” Fahy said.
The surgeon credited Tiger’s mind strength and will power for his successful rehabilitation and remarkable return to the golf.
“You never know how a person will recover – most of it will depend on the patient’s strength of mind – but if he was to get back to playing golf at all, we saw that as a bonus. To get back the point where he could win the Masters is incredible,” the Telegraph quoted Fahy as saying.
“It took a tremendous amount of courage to go through what he did. He had achieved everything in the sport. A lot of people would have accepted that and retired to a quiet life, but that wasn’t enough for Tiger.”