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Tiger Woods' Knee Surgery: FAQ

An Orthopaedic Surgeon Answers 8 Questions About Tiger Woods' Arthroscopic Knee Surgery, Golf and the Knees, and More

What is the rehabilitation process like for the procedure he had?

Since I don't know what he had, I don't know what they're going to do. There are about eight to 10 different things they can do inside in a knee arthroscopy.

My guess is that he had something called a meniscectomy and chondroplasty. If that's what he had, and that's a big if, he would likely progress to what are called isometric knee exercises, try to reduce swelling, keep the leg iced and elevated over the first week or so. And then likely begin working on an exercise bike with limited tension and then progress to more weight-bearing and more loading over the course of the next three or four weeks. 

I don't know Tiger, but my guess is that his goal is to get back for the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego in mid-June, which is about six weeks or eight weeks away. And if he had what we're speculating he had, he should be able to be back for that.

We've seen with all types of athletes, however, that the rehab processes depend upon what happened yesterday in the OR. So the only two people who really know that are his surgeon and Tiger.

So it's something you could come all the way back from?

We all know Tiger. This is more as a golf fan -- he'll probably do anything he can to be ready for the U.S. Open. And I'll make a bet -- he'll be better. His physical conditioning prior to the surgery was spectacular. He's going to rehab a lot faster than most of us. Elite athletes simply just do better.

For the rest of us, at what point should someone be talking to a doctor about knee pain?

There's a spectrum of injuries that can occur.

If you have mild pain without a lot of swelling, you can see how that goes over a week or two, talk to your primary care doctor, maybe do some physical therapy. But the concerning things that lead to surgery are persistent swelling, persistent clicking, catching, locking, or sensation of instability in your knee.

The best ways to avoid injuries to your knee is to maintain excellent strength and flexibility -- stretching exercises for your hamstrings, your Achilles [tendon], your quads. ... The use of an exercise bike is a phenomenal way to strengthen your knee without impacting it. I do this myself three or four times a week -- I will either ride a regular bike or an exercise bike to maintain strength and fitness around my knees. And I've taken hundreds, if not thousands, of my own patients through an exercise bike program that I think is very valuable for maintaining that.

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