'Tiger Woods Rehab Will Take 1-2 Years' - Foot and Ankle Surgeon

We spoke to a Surgeon about Tiger Woods' recovery chances

Tiger Woods Returns Home After Car Accident Tiger Woods Rehab Will Take 1-2 Years
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We spoke to a Consultant Orthopaedic and Specialist Foot & Ankle Surgeon about his thoughts on the chances of Tiger Woods' recovery following his car crash and surgery

'Tiger Woods Rehab Will Take 1-2 Years' - Foot and Ankle Surgeon

Tiger Woods was "very fortunate" to survive a horrific car accident in California on Tuesday, LA police said.

The 15-time Major winner's vehicle came off the road, leaving him with multiple fractures to his leg and foot.

Woods underwent surgery and was responsive afterwards, prompting the golfing world to breathe a huge sigh of relief.

So what next for Tiger and how long will it take him to come back? Or could this be the end of his career?

We spoke with Limb Reconstruction surgeon and consultant Nima Heidari (opens in new tab) who specialises in foot, ankle and limb reconstruction, and has been in the industry for more than two decades, to learn more about the injuries Woods sustained to his foot, leg and muscles.

The Surgery

"It [Woods' tibia] has been fixed by something called an intramedullary nail, because the bones are like tubes and you pop a rod down it, stabilise it, it's a very, very stable way of fixing it," Heidari told Golf Monthly.

"The other thing that’s important is he had something called compartment syndrome.

Woods' surgery took place at Harbor UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, California, where Nima has visited. (Photo by APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)

"It’s basically when muscles are injured and crushed - they swell.

"Muscles in the body are actually incapsulated in sacks, which are not particularly flexible so it doesn’t allow the muscle to swell beyond a certain volume.

"Of course if you can’t swell out, what happens is that it just squeezes the muscle to a point where blood can no longer flow in the muscle and it causes muscle death."

Related: Tiger Woods and Son Charlie watched by Elin Nordegren at PNC Championship  (opens in new tab)

The Big Problem: Woods' foot injury

Whilst Tiger has suffered huge injuries to his leg and muscles, it could actually be his foot that causes him more problems in the future.

Bones in Woods' foot and ankle were stabilised using pins and screws, with injuries like this usually spelling the end of careers for high-impact athletes like footballers.

"If you look at foot injuries, they are the things that determine the long-term prognosis," Heidari said.

"Generally foot injuries with complex tibial fractures, if you compare them to just tibial fractures, they can carry a worse prognosis.

"So I think my prediction would be that the tibia may not necessarily be the thing that causes problems whereas the foot invariably does.

"So the foot injuries are what will determine the future outcome and the reason for that is because bearing load on the foot, which is painful, it has two profound issues.

"One is that it’s a psychological short circuit to the trauma so people don’t like it because it just reminds them of the injury.

"The other thing is that if you have pain, you can’t really exercise so running, jogging and being able to do sporting activities will be much more affected by foot injuries than anything else.

"Foot injuries are different. They really have a profound influence on quality of life."

The 15-time Major winner had to be pulled out of his vehicle. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

The muscle injuries

"The problem with the muscle injuries is that some of the muscle is undoubtedly very injured. It will become scarred," Heidari said.

"Scarred muscles will become weaker and to regain the strength in these muscles again requires a huge amount of effort.

"Not being able to bear load through the foot initially means that he will lose some muscle bulk.

"There is a variety of ways that you can maintain the muscle bulk through physiotherapy and he would have access to the absolute latest technology to do that.

"But there is no doubt that you will lose fitness, you will lose muscle strength, you will lose balance on that leg and regaining those through rehabilitation and physiotherapy is what takes the longest time.

"The difficult one if you look at any sportsman or woman who has been injured, they’re out for a season.

"It’s not because it’s the injury that requires healing.

"It’s the injury that requires healing plus then the rehabilitation to get back to the really high level of performance that they had before."

Related: What is Tiger Woods' net worth?

'Rehab will take 1-2 years'

Tiger Woods Lucky To Be Alive After LA Car Crash

The 45-year-old was "very fortunate" to emerge from the crash alive, Carlos Gonazalez, the Los Angeles deputy who was first on the scene, said

Woods' bone and muscle injuries will heal within a few months, with 80% of the recovery coming in the first 3-4 months.

It will then take up to two years of rehabilitation, although some complex tibial injuries can take up to five years to fully get back to 100%.

For Tiger just to get back to the golf course for practice or social play, he will initially need to use a buggy and wear specialist shoes.

But will he ever be able to walk a full 18 holes again, or compete on the PGA Tour?

"The entirety of my practice is essentially looking after patients that have these sorts of injuries and the key determinant is the patient’s or the individual’s approach to the injury and so on," Heidari said.

"If you catastrophise it and think ‘Oh my god, my life is over,’ of course that’s exactly what will happen.

"But if you think that ‘I’m not going to let this define me,’ then you can’t predict.

"The thing is that if anyone is going to do it, Tiger Woods is going to do it.

"He is an incredibly single-minded and determined person.

"The human animal is an incredible thing, it can overcome."

Related: Who is Tiger Woods' girlfriend? - Meet Erica Herman

Is Tiger Woods' career over?

"I don't know. His career has been over many times right? I think it’s foolish to predict it and to be honest with you, one or two things are going to happen," Heidari said.

"He’s either to think ‘Oh my god I’m going to give up’ or actually he’s just going to be even more determined and say that ‘I'm not going to let it get me down and I’m just gonna get over it.’

"So I think speculation about the termination of his career, it is just far too soon to predict and my suspicion is that he will excel in one way or another in something. 

Nima Heidari is a Consultant Orthopaedic & Specialist Foot & Ankle Surgeon who currently works across three clinics including the Royal London Hospital, Europe's largest trauma centre.

Elliott Heath
Senior Staff Writer

Elliott Heath is our Senior Staff Writer and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016. He graduated in Sports Journalism in 2016 and currently manages the Golf Monthly news, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Elliott has interviewed some huge names in the golf world including Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bjorn, Bernd Wiesberger and Scotty Cameron as well as a number of professionals on the DP World and PGA Tours. He has also covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as three Open Championships including at Carnoustie in 2018 when he was inside the ropes with Tiger Woods. He has played 31 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Old Head and Alwoodley. He currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 4-6. His golfing highlight is making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, and he has made one hole-in-one.

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Honma TR20

3 wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Max

2 iron: Mizuno MP-18 MMC Fli-Hi

Irons: Mizuno MP5 4-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x