Tiger Woods has long road to recovery ahead of him, expert says

"He just has a long, long, long road ahead of him and so I would just ask everybody be patient with him and say some prayers for him."
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- In a career filled with remarkable comebacks, champion golfer Tiger Woods now faces perhaps his toughest recovery of all.

If it weren't for the quick action of first responders and trauma surgeons, doctors say Woods could have lost his leg.

Dr. William Stetson is the team surgeon for the USA men's and women's volleyball teams.

"Infections are one of the biggest things we worry about after these sorts of injuries," he said. "For a fair number of people this could be a career-ending injury for an elite athlete."

At Harbor UCLA Medical Center, doctors say the 45-year-old athlete suffered open fractures to his tibia below his right knee. It's a difficult area for healing.

"If you look at your shin bone and your tibia, there's not a lot of muscle that surrounds it. It's pretty exposed close to the skin," Stetson said.

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Woods' doctors also reported they used screws and pins to stabilize additional injuries to his foot and ankle. Surgeons had to act fast to save his muscles.

Stetson said, "They did something called a fasciotomy. They actually released the tissue around the muscle. If you don't do that, the muscle can actually die."
Stetson expects Woods' healing process will start very slowly.

"Typically with injuries like that, patients are not allowed to bear any weight on it for the first four to six weeks," he said. "You probably won't be able to put a full amount of weight on it until maybe three months after the surgery."

Then begins the long road of strengthening and re-conditioning.

"He's probably looking at nine to 12 months for any sort of decent recovery from an injury like that, " Stetson said.

In the next few months, it's likely Woods may need more surgeries to reduce the risk of infection.

Is this career-ending? Stetson said he's seen many elite athletes return after severe injuries and says Woods is an extraordinary athlete.

"He really is. But he just has a long, long, long road ahead of him and so I would just ask everybody be patient with him and say some prayers for him," he said. "We want him to get back to his great game of golf and a great life."
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