Tiger Woods' ACL Surgery: FAQ
Woods to Get ACL Reconstruction and Expects to Miss the Rest of the PGA Season
Is this an injury that an elite athlete could come all the way back from?
McCulloch: Yes. This is a very common injury in general and in
professional sports. There are over 100,000 ACL reconstructions performed per
year. The general success rates of patients rating their knee as good to
excellent are in the 90th percentile. There are several instances of other
professional athletes who have returned to the highest level of competition
after this, and given Tiger's demonstrated resolve and focus, I have no doubt
that he will return fully.
Mishra: I think, as a fan, that he can come back and that he didn't
do anything permanent to make him less stable to have a long career. That will
only be known by Tiger and his doctor.
People can come back from an ACL reconstruction and have done that in many,
many other sports at elite levels. So I have no doubt that he'll be back at the
same level -- which is to win the U.S. Open -- or better.
What does the ACL do?
McCulloch: The ACL is the anterior cruciate ligament. It's a ligament
that goes between the thigh bone and leg bone in the knee. The role of the ACL
is to help to control abnormal motion at the knee. When the ACL is torn, the
leg has a tendency to slip forward and to rotate in an abnormal fashion, which
can give people a sense of instability, as if their knee will buckle on
At the time of an ACL injury, the leg slips forward and because of that, you
can sustain a tear of the meniscus, which is a protective cartilage that sits
between bones. Approximately 40% to 50% of patients will sustain a meniscus
tear at the time of the ACL injury.
What does ACL reconstruction surgery involve?
McCulloch: The surgery itself is done on an outpatient basis. We
can't repair that ACL so we just make a new one. ... We'll take a tendon --
either from somewhere else on the patient's knee or from a donor ... it's fixed
to the femur and fixed to the tibia.
Mishra: It typically is a much bigger deal than just a knee
arthroscopy [the type of surgery Woods had in April]. You've got to reconstruct
the ligament, which is a bigger challenge than doing just a meniscus surgery.
It takes an hour and a half or two hours of time, depending on how they do
When is ACL reconstruction surgery needed?
McCulloch: The decision whether or not to reconstruct the ACL
ligament is based on several factors, the most important of which is the
patient's desired activity level and type of activities they engage in.
If someone has a low demand on their knee and they tend to participate in
linear sports such as jogging or running or swimming, they may do fine
without having the ACL reconstructed. And in fact, Tiger went on to win five of
his next six or seven tournaments after he had rehabilitated from the torn ACL