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Back Stories

Will Tiger Woods’ recent back surgery end his career? A spine surgeon’s thoughts

Tiger Woods Back Surgery photo by Keith Allison / cc 2.0

After reading a Golf Digest article about Tiger Woods’ third major spine surgery in less than 3 years, we asked Dr. Mark Valente for his thoughts on if he would be able to continue to play competitive golf.

Tiger is young, otherwise healthy and in good physical shape with a strong core.  He should tolerate any back surgery very well from a recovery stand point. It sounds like he has undergone 3 prior decompression surgeries (either laminectomies and/or discectomies) prior to this surgery.  Those have obviously not provided him with significant prolonged pain relief.  Subsequently, the article makes it sound as though he has undergone a 1 level L5-S1 fusion procedure.  With lumbar fusion procedures he will have no restrictions after 6 months and will most likely return to competitive golf. Patient’s commonly have misconceptions when it comes to fusion procedures. They are under the impression that they are too old for a fusion, that the surgery will significantly restrict their motion, that they won’t be able to play golf or tennis and they will need more and more surgeries. Fortunately, these are mostly false.  People ages 40-70 routinely have fusions without any complications. The vast majority of people will never notice a restriction in motion after a fusion.

This is for several reasons:
-1. If you have a 1 level fusion, you still have 22 other discs that can move plus your hips and your knees.
-2. Before surgery, you aren’t utilizing the good discs that you have due to the painful disc or joint.

So, once we fuse the painful disc or joint and get rid of the pain, you are able to use your good discs and joints again. This is the reason why some people say they feel like they actually move better after their fusion surgery then they did before it. Once the bones have fused, there are no restrictions at all, so you can go back to playing golf, tennis, skiing, etc. In fact, Peyton Manning, had a fusion surgery and then went on to play in the Super Bowl. Nate “Rock” Quarry underwent a lumbar fusion and then returned to a successful career in MMA.

After a fusion surgery, you are up and walking that very same day. You typically go home the same day or sometimes stay 1 or 2 nights in the hospital. Most people are back to work in 1-4 weeks and back to golf or tennis by 6 months.

For more information and to find a leading back doctor, contact DISC Spine Institute, experts in minimally invasive treatments for chronic back pain, the most effective medical procedures to treat and eliminate chronic back pain.

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