Tiger Woods’ Injuries: Defining Terms and Procedures

The recent news of Tiger Woods’ horrific car accident has been startling. Watching the images of the aftermath, we see how serious the incident and the injuries sustained by the golf great are. While news outlets have been reporting on details of the necessary emergency orthopedic surgery, fans are growing more and more concerned, so we thought it would be helpful to provide some expert insight into the meaning of some common terms and procedures being reported.

High-Energy Trauma/Fracture

Injuries sustained where a large amount of energy or force are at play are considered high-energy traumas. Accidents involving a moving vehicle, like in the case of Tiger Woods, or a fall from a significant height are examples. These traumas result in more complex injuries that generally involve more tissue damage.

Open Fracture

An open fracture, historically known as a compound fracture, is a fracture in which the bone has broken through the skin of the area at the time of injury. Because the wound is open, there may be contamination at the fracture site that increases the risk of infection. Severity of the injury depends on the degree of contamination and extent of damage to soft tissues such as muscles, tendons, nerves, and blood vessels. Open fractures should always considered an emergency and treated immediately due to the increased risk of infection.

Use of Rods, Plates and Screws

When a fracture cannot be adequately treated with conservative measures, such as setting the bone and casting or splinting, surgery is indicated. In the case of open fractures, surgery is necessary to clean the area to minimize the risk of infection. Fractures treated in this way usually need to be stabilized with metal hardware, such as rods, plates and screws. This is called internal fixation. Nails or rods are inserted into the center of long bones, such as the tibia, for stabilization. These are most often used for fractures near the middle of long bones. Some fractures may require a plate and screws to hold the bones in place while they heal. In some cases, wires or pins are utilized to treat fractures in smaller bones. Depending on the case, pins and wires are usually removed once the bone has healed adequately. Rods, plates and screws are often not removed.

Compartment Syndrome

Fractures can cause bleeding and severe swelling, which can create excessive pressure within muscle compartments. If this occurs, this pressure can cause damage to muscle and other soft tissue within that compartment, which may be irreversible. This is called compartment syndrome. If this occurs, emergency surgery must be done to prevent this tissue damage. If not properly treated, this problem may lead to amputation. Treating this requires a procedure called fasciotomy, during which surgeons incise the covering of muscles (called fascia) to relieve the pressure from the injury. This release is commonly achieved through large incisions, which may heal together once swelling is reduced or may require skin grafting. Sometimes fasciotomy is performed if the injury is felt to have a high risk for developing compartment syndrome.

Until more information is released about the specifics of Tiger Woods’ injuries and treatment, it is hard to speculate on what his recovery will look like. The focus now is on successful healing from surgery and combating any complications, should they arise. Traumatic injuries are devastating to those who have had the unfortunate experience. We hope through the support of his family and all his fans, Tiger Woods will make a full and healthy recovery. We wish him all the best in his journey.

To learn more about the orthopedic trauma specialists in our practice, visit our NEOSM physician profiles.

6 Signs You Should See an Orthopedic

“Should I get this checked out?” That’s the question most of us ask ourselves when we’ve suffered an injury or have been experiencing some ongoing discomfort. It’s hard to know what you can let heal on its own and what needs the attention of a specialist. Consider, though, that waiting on treatment can create deeper issues and complications. To help, our orthopedics are sharing the tell-tale signs that it’s time for them to take a look.

Pain, Swelling, Discoloration, Loss of Motion Lasting More Than 48 Hours

Things don’t feel or look normal, and they don’t seem to be getting better.

Deformity 

Your joint or extremity is looking deformed, for instance a finger that is now crooked.

Locked Joint 

You have lost range of motion in a joint, such as your elbow, shoulder or knee.

Any Bone or Joint Injury with Broken Skin 

An open wound or break in the skin is visible in the area of the injured bone.

Over-the-counter Pain Medication Not Providing Relief

You’ve tried Tylenol or ibuprofen, but your pain has not been reduced to a tolerable level.

Unable to Bear Weight 

Standing or walking is painful, or nearly impossible

Any of the symptoms above could be a sign of a serious orthopedic issue that could get worse if not treated. If you think you, or someone you know, is in need of a consultation, reach out for an appointment with one of our highly trained specialists today. 

Is Rehab Right For You?

By: Dr. Barry Kraushaar

Many patients who see an Orthopedic Surgeon arrive with a concern that the prescription for treatment is surgery. The fact is, surgery is a small part of the entire care of an orthopedic patient. While it is true that a surgeon may need to perform procedures to repair some injuries, there is an important role for Physical and Occupational Therapy in all the phases of patient care.

Many patients have discomfort due to muscle imbalances. These can be recently acquired, or they can be developing over decades.

  • Physical therapy is prescribed to assess as well as treat these imbalances. The field of Sports Medicine has been helpful in showing us the benefit of strength-balancing to restore function. The fact is, most patients with shoulder pain can be treated with this approach. A person can have a rotator cuff tendon tear or shoulder instability, yet they may avoid surgery if the remaining muscles are properly rehabilitated. Rehab takes time. With the supervision of a therapist a patient can be moved forward in a manner tailored to that specific person’s pattern of injury.

In order to rehabilitate properly, a patient must be comfortable enough to perform the exercises.

  • This is where the modalities of PT matter. Massager, electrical stimulation, TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) and ice/heat combinations are examples of comfort measures. Some patients need a gradual approach to rehab, and modalities are very helpful in the immediate postoperative period before exercises can begin.

Stiffness can be a separate category of difficulty that the therapist may need to address.

  • Muscle imbalances do not always explain loss of function. Sometimes stiffness is a separate issue that takes time to manage. A physical therapist can not only teach stretching, but they also can help the patient perform them. This can be especially true in patients with chronic shoulder or knee pain. The posterior (rear) position of the shoulder gets tight in some shoulders, especially baseball pitchers. The hamstrings tend to tighten up in patients with chronic knee pain. Therapists know to address this category of rehabilitation in addition to strength and comfort.

You are your own best friend in Rehabilitation.

  • The goal of Physical or Occupational therapy is to restore your function as close as possible to your pre-injured state. With your own participation the results are more likely to work. A good therapist will teach you techniques that you can use, and provide you with home exercises to make the improvements last.

Not everyone needs rehabilitation, and there is eventually a limit to the benefits achieved. The purpose of an Orthopedic Surgeon prescribing rehabilitation is to address the injured part and the surrounding region. So if your doctor prescribes therapy, there is probably a good reason for it.

Contact us today to speak to a Northeast Orthopedics & Sports Medicine physician to discuss how therapy may fit into your treatment plan.