By petedirenzo
Thursday, June 19, 2008

He'll return better than ever. He'll never be the same again. He'll have to find a new swing. One day after Tiger Woods announced he was done for the season, the golf and sports world continue to weigh in on his surgery, his accomplishment at the U.S. Open, and his future. Thomas Bonk, ace golf writer of the Los Angeles Times, unearthed this gem today from Dr. Neal ElAttrache, director of sports medicine with Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic and the team doctor for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Sounds like Tiger is in for a grind. The ACL surgery is probably the least of Woods' problems with his left knee, according to Dr. Neal ElAttrache, director of sports medicine with the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic and the team doctor for the Dodgers."His pressing problem is cartilage damage on the lateral side of his knee under his kneecap," ElAttrache said. "ACL's can be fixed and stabilized, but the cartilage surface of the joint, that's unforgiving."It can sometimes be improved by doing microfracture surgery, but that part of his knee is always going to take a beating. This will be something he deals with the rest of his career."ElAttrache said that many times athletes in Woods' situation must have their knees drained during competition."Knees tend to over-lubricate themselves because of the damage to the cartilage that leads to excessive swelling. I wouldn't be surprised if they drained it."Added ElAttrache: "He's got a lot of healing to do." More solid reporting from golf writer Larry Dorman in this morning's New York Times: Dr. Tony Buon-Christiani, a Sun Valley, Idaho, orthopedic surgeon specializing in the repair of various A.C.L. injuries sustained by professional and amateur skiers in the area, said rehabilitation variables included age, physical condition, whether one’s own tissue or cadaver tissue was used in reconstruction and whether an athlete was dedicated in rehabilitating the quadriceps and hamstrings.
“The party line is about six months, but there is no one answer,” he said in a telephone interview Wednesday night. Jerry Rice, the ex-49ers receiver, went back at four months and retore his A.C.L. A key is getting the strength back in the quadriceps and hamstrings, the surrounding musculature that are the sort of secondary stabilizers that will hopefully augment the repair.
“If someone doesn’t do their rehab, I need to protect them and keep them out if they’re not ready to return to sport. On the flip side, if they do the work, and have rock-solid repair with their own graft tissue, I’ll consider returning them in five months.”
Although he declined to speak specifically about Woods’s case, he said a golfer’s rehabilitation would fall into a similar time frame. Given Woods’s dedication, the seven months between July and December offer plenty of time to rehabilitate successfully.
What do you think? After seeing Tiger Woods navigate the most difficult championship of the year on one good knee, will his absence (and some doubters, to be sure) provide new motivation for him to return better than ever? Do you think his career is in jeopardy? Will he pick up where he left off after missing anywhere from six months to a year?

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