Tiger Woods is an excellent athlete who has strived to stay in the best of condition, but unfortunately he is no longer in his prime. To be a top-notch athlete, one needs to be able to perform without distraction and have a perfectly tuned body. Tiger is no longer 25 years old and in perfect health. Today, there are many professional golfers who are younger and in better health. A 25-year-old Woods may be better than a 25-year-old Rory McIlroy, but Woods doesn’t have the luxury of a time machine. The injuries that Tiger has had are not going to heal perfectly and his performance is clearly in decline.
Tiger Woods is now 38 years old and he is certainly past his prime. Woods has had significant knee surgeries and recently underwent a Microdiscectomy for a lumbar disc protrusion in his back. The body and all its parts age and show signs of wear in everybody. Typically by the age of 30, there are often subtle changes in the spine and joints as we stress them. The cartilage in the knee joints can show changes, and in the spine the discs bulge, tear, and show degeneration. By age 40, everyone has different signs of deterioration throughout the body. The design of the body is such that we can do most activities well until about age 40. 150 years ago, it was typical that people would die due to trauma, disease, infections, or even heart problems by age 40-50 years. Today, we are outliving the design of our body since we have better medical care.
The difference between amateur and professional athletes is the level of perfection they achieve in their sport. Physically, to achieve that level of perfection, everything in the body must be in perfect shape. A slight abnormality in the body sometimes can be compensated for, but often the level of ability is diminished. Today, the difference between the best athletes and an average athlete is the ability to do everything in a sport without compromise. Tiger’s back and knee injuries are forcing him to compromise. Tiger may be able to golf and occasionally win, but he will not be a future force and consistent top contender.
PGA Championship in Doubt
Woods was forced to withdraw from last week’s Bridgestone Invitational after suffering another setback with his surgically repaired back. The injury occurred as Woods took a step into a bunker on the 9th hole, and he withdrew from competition shortly thereafter. Some speculate that Tiger only withdrew because he was out of contention and didn’t want to jeopardize his chance to play in golf’s final major of the year this week at the PGA Championship, but his absence from the course Tuesday shows that something is clearly wrong with Woods.
Woods’ agent said the 38-year-old was at his home in Florida resting, but Tiger’s caddie went to the tournament to scout the course in case he decides to play, so there’s still a chance the 14-time major winner will chase another tour victory this week. We should know more about his status by the end of the day Wednesday. We’ll provide an update once more is known.
Thomas Cohn, MD
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