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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
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

April 16, 2008 -- Golfer Tiger Woods had arthroscopic knee surgery on his left knee yesterday to correct cartilage damage. The surgery was successful, and Woods is expected to return to competition in four to six weeks, according to Woods' web site.

"I made the decision to deal with the pain and schedule the surgery for after the Masters," Woods says on his web site, which notes that he had been having knee pain since the middle of last year.

This is the third time that Woods has had surgery on his left knee. In 1994, doctors removed a benign tumor from that knee, and in 2002, Woods got arthroscopic surgery in that knee, according to his web site.

WebMD spoke with Allan Mishra, MD, about arthroscopic knee surgery, the rehabilitation process, and how golf and other sports affect the knees. Mishra is a clinical assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at Stanford University Medical Center and spokesman for the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Mishra isn't familiar with the details of Woods' diagnosis or treatment.

What is arthroscopic knee surgery?

I think the easiest way to say it is it's a minimally invasive procedure that can be done to affect significant changes within the knee. So if you had a torn piece of cartilage, you would remove or partially resect that, possibly repair it. [Woods] may have also had something called chondroplasty that's like a smoothing of the cartilage. I don't know what Tiger had.

His web site says that the surgery corrected cartilage damage.

Right. We don't know what that means. It could be either the surface or the meniscus cartilage.

[Right-handed golfers] pivot on your left knee with a golf swing, so it's not surprising that it's his left knee vs. his right knee. We've all seen Tiger and he puts an incredible amount of torque around his body, and he's pivoting on his meniscus, on his knee. I'm just speculating, but that may be part of what's happening.

I'm not a golf swing coach. He's got the world's best golf swing; how am I going to criticize Tiger Woods' golf swing? That's impossible. But maybe he's putting too much torque around his knee.

He's a very powerful golfer, and I think it's a testimony to Tiger's toughness that he was able to finish second in the Masters and then two days later have surgery. Just as a golf fan, I'm impressed.

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