Penn Medicine orthopedic trauma surgeon explains Tiger Woods' injuries, recovery

ByHeather Grubola WPVI logo
Wednesday, February 24, 2021

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Tiger Woods remains in the hospital after Tuesday's rollover crash near Los Angeles. Officials say he's lucky to be alive.

The golf pro was severely hurt and rushed to the hospital with serious injuries to his legs.

Fire officials said he tried to free himself from the wreckage after the crash but could not stand up on his own. He has now undergone several major surgeries.

His team announced he's awake and responsive, but the golf star is facing what could be one of his toughest recoveries and he will likely need more operations in the future.

Health reporter and registered nurse Ali Gorman spoke with a local surgeon who treats these types of complex injuries.

"This would fall into the category of mangled extremity," said Dr. Samir Mehta.

Dr. Mehta is an orthopedic trauma surgeon at Penn Medicine and said Woods' injuries are extensive.

The surgery to his right leg involved placing a metal rod into his shin bone, screws and pins into his foot and ankle and a procedure to relieve pressure in the tissue.

Dr. Mehta said each injury on its own is extreme, but together it is a different story.

"It's just compounded because it's involving multiple parts of the same extremity," he said.

He said there's a 20% to 50% risk for complications and there are questions that have not been answered.

"Was there a neurological injury? How are the nerves that supply foot and ankle, what's the blood supply to the foot and ankle, this falls into limb salvage category as well," he said.

He said recovery can take months and will be challenging, both physically and emotionally.

Another complicating factor is Woods' history with opioid abuse.

Dr. Asif Ilyas is president of Rothman Opioid Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to educate patients, prescribers and policymakers on ways to limit the use of painkillers.

"It's really important as his pain management strategy is put together, it takes into account his past history and really relies heavily on non-opioid agents as much as possible," said Dr. IIyas.

Could this accident be career a ending injury for the golf legend?

"It very well could be. Everyone looks at Alex Smith from the Washington Football Team and what he did, but that's the right side of the bell curve. That's not the commonality that happens and more often than not. This is an injury that has a long term effect on him and for him to play at the high level he is accustomed to, I think that's really going to be a challenge," said Dr. Mehta.