The Tiger Woods- “Why Not” Factor

It’s the Master’s golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. It is also the 25th anniversary of the first appearance in the tournament by Tiger Woods.

Many people were surprised to see Tiger Woods had entered the tournament. After his car accident in February of 2021, there was speculation that Woods would never play golf again due to his injuries. The injuries sustained in his crash result in debate of whether the leg would have to be amputated. Surgeon’s take many things into account in their clinical reasoning for decisions such a this. In this case the Tiger Wood’s factor likely played a role.

Tiger Woods fractured both bones in his right lower leg. He had what is called comminuted open fractures of the tibia and the fibula. Without getting too graphic, this means the fractured bones push out of the skin.

The question is how Tiger Woods has returned to elite level golf from an injury where some said he would not walk well on that leg again. Does he heal better? Does he heal faster?

Yes, he likely has a team of people who can provide information and an optimum environment for healing. He definitely has the mental focus to recover. There are many stories of training his mental game and psychological fortitude that helps with the rehab process. An article in Golf Digest reports him saying that the rehab from this injury was exceptionally tough in comparison to what he has been through.

Yes, Woods has the money for rehab. His “job” can be his recovery. This certainly puts him at an advantage and perhaps faster timeline for recovery.

Yes, he has the physical base to help him recover.

Even though Woods had been recovering from a disc herniation procedure, he was likely in the upper range of physical fitness for his age group. Having a good base makes recovery from injuries like this easier. When you are faced with a terrible injury or health issue and your fitness and strength is already very low, it will diminish even further before you can try and build it up again. This can add to the difficulty.

These above things certainly played a role in his rehabilitation and returning to the Master’s. Woods’ mental fortitude, the resources he as such as physios and RMTs, his base base level of fitness all contribute to being a contender in one of the best golf tournaments in the world.

I speculate that it is more than the above that got him there.

It is the “why not” factor.

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Tiger Woods very much could have listened to the statistics about his injury. He could have listened to how many people have had to have their leg amputated. He could have listed to how many people never return to a “normal” life. Woods could have listed to all the specialists that said it was “unlikely” that he would return to sport. That he would be lucky to simply walk.

Perhaps because of who he is he was granted the benefit of the doubt.

Maybe some of the specialists granted him the “why not?”.

Maybe his rehab team granted him the “why not?” or the “what have you got to lose?”.

Maybe he granted himself the “why not?”

Why as health care providers do we place limitations on people and their recovery? Yes, it is important to have frank and honest discussions with people. But, if someone who is supposed to be in their corner gives them no hope, it is difficult to muster that.

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Tiger Woods returning to competitive golf is exceptional, as is Tiger Woods. It is important to allow people this same grace to return to the best version possible of themselves. It is important to grant people this same grace even if they have a degeneratve or progressive condition.

What can a “best case” look like? Why can’t we strive for that?