In August 2013, we saw Tiger Woods collapse on the course at the Barclay’s tournament from debilitating back pain. The star athlete suffered through competition to completion, but withdrew from his next tournament to rest. At the time, he blamed his heavy travel schedule and soft hotel beds for his pain and frequent back spasms. During the off season, Woods took time to rest and prepare his body for the 2014 golf season.
Unfortunately, earlier this month, Woods was forced to withdraw from competition at the Honda Classic when his lower back pain once again became too much to handle. He later explained, “It’s my lower back with spasms… It started this morning warming up.” Luckily, through stretching and physical therapy, Woods was able to participate in the Cadillac Classic the following weekend.
Tiger has such a powerful swing that, even though he is in great shape, it puts a lot of torque onto his lower back and disks. The full golf swing is a movement that can aggravate an underlying disk condition, as many of my patients have experienced.
Tiger played a strong game at the Cadillac Classic and came in fourth place. However, he wasn’t as lucky the following weekend. After experiencing increasingly painful spasms, Woods withdrew himself from the Arnold Palmer Invitational. In a statement on his website, Woods wrote: “Unfortunately, my back spasms and the pain haven’t subsided. It’s too early to know about the Masters, and I will continue to be evaluated and work closely with my doctors.”
Later in the week, Golfweek reported that Woods was “diagnosed with a bulging back disc and won’t need surgery.” Herniated discs are common with age and the wear and tear that accompanies being a professional athlete. While some herniated discs require corrective surgery, many cases can be managed through alternative treatments. Anti-inflammatories, hold and cold compresses, physical therapy, and chiropractic work have all been shown to reduce the pain caused by a slipped disc. Epidural steroid injections are also effective in select cases.
Golf analysts predict that we won’t see Tiger play again until the Masters in Augusta, and even then, it is not known how his condition will his affect his ability to play. With proper treatment, rest, and rehabilitation, I’m certainly hoping to see him back to his old self.