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Tiger Woods' Back Surgery: Can He Come Back?

By Charlotte Libov   |   Tuesday, 01 Apr 2014 05:37 PM

Can Tiger Woods come back from spinal surgery?
The superstar golfer announced Tuesday that he has undergone a microdiscectomy operation in an effort to stop pain he was suffering because of a pinched nerve in his back.
Anybody who has undergone back surgery knows it is a serious procedure that can affect a person for the rest of his or her life. For an elite athlete like Woods, the stakes are even higher.
But one of the nation’s top spinal surgeons tells Newsmax Health that Woods should be able to return to top form.
“I would expect him to return to his pre-surgery performance within a few months,” said Clayton Dean, M.D., surgeon at the Maryland Spine Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.
“There are several athletes – golfers and football players – who have undergone this procedure and there is a high degree of success for their returning to their sport.”
Following the surgery, Woods announced that he will miss this year’s Masters Tournament. “After attempting to get ready for the Masters, and failing to make the necessary progress, I decided, in consultation with my doctors, to have this procedure done,” Woods said.
The surgery, performed by neurosurgeon Charles Rich in Park City, Utah, is a minimally invasive procedure designed to relieve pressure and pain caused by a herniated disc. Doctors recommend that patients avoid twisting and bending the back until they have recovered.
A herniated disc is one of the most common sources of back pain and surgery is often performed when physically therapy fails.
“(Microdiscectomy) is the most common procedure we perform here,” said Dr. Dean.
New England Patriot’s tight end Rob Gronkowski underwent the procedure last June and was able to play football a few months later.
A microdiscectomy can be performed on any area of the spine extending from the neck to the lower back. It is done via a small incision. Using a special microscope, the surgeon can see the problematic area and use small tools to remove the bulging disc material.
The procedure generally requires a four-to-six week recuperation. Although the surgery is considered low-risk, there can be complications, including infection, leaking spinal fluid, and the possibility the disc problem will recur.
There is also a danger of an athlete returning too soon, but Dr. Dean figures that Woods’ doctors will be extremely careful.
Golfers: your golf club can change your game!

It is very likely that Woods will play at his customary elite level when he returns, says Dr. Dean. “In fact, if he had any nerve symptoms impinging on his performance, he may return better than before.”

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