Tiger Woods announced last week that he is returning to the PGA Tour. After 14 months away, Tiger was set to make his return at the Safeway Open.
But then...he withdrew.
Much has been made of Tiger's golfing career. From his march toward Jack Nicklaus' Major record, to his personal life, to his overall health and battle with injuries, Tiger has been in the spotlight his entire career. Last week was no different, as Woods announced that the wait was over, and he was returning to play. Social Media lit up, and tickets to the Safeway Open spiked.
But then he backed out.
The announcement yesterday that he wasn't going to play came as a shock to many in the golf world. Woods claimed that his game simply wasn't up to his standards, and if Tiger Woods can't compete at the highest level (which one has to assume means the level he was at when he won four straight Majors), then why even bother, right?
He stated that his body is good, and it was not the reason for pulling out of this week's tournament, but one has to wonder if that's actually true. I'll argue that while he might not feel any pain, his body isn't good at all.
I have studied Tiger's swing, studied his body, and studied his function (notice I didn't say his "swing mechanics"), and it all adds up to exactly what he has experienced to this point: pain and suffering.
While Tiger will argue that his body is good, and he is physically able to return to the game he loves, I don't believe he has done anything to get to the root cause of his injuries (and I believe they all have a singular root cause). I also believe that he and those he surrounds himself with have turned a blind eye to just how connected all his injuries are. Just to refresh your memory, take a look at the list of Tiger's injuries and see if anything jumps out at you:
October 1994: Left knee surgery
December 13, 2002: Left knee surgery
August 2007: Ruptured left ACL
August 2008: Left knee surgery
May 2008: Stress fracture in left tibia
June 2008: Surgery on left ACL
2008: Tore right Achilles tendon
May 2010: Inflamed facet joint in neck
May 2011: Sprain of left MCL and left Achilles tendon
March 2012: Left Achilles injury
June 2013: Left elbow strain
March 2014: Lower back spasms, then back surgery
August 2014: Lower back pain
September 2015: Microdiscectomy surgery
October 2015: Microdiscectomy surgery again
Notice a trend? Of the 15 injuries listed, nine are on his left side, and five (the neck pain and the recent low back symptoms) aren't specified. Only one--the right Achilles tendon injury in 2008--is specific to his right side. In other words, over 90% of his injuries are either on the left side or not specified to be on the right side of his body. Is there a link to these injuries? Is this trend significant? Should we make anything out of the majority of his injures being left-sided? I believe the answer to all of these questions to be "yes."
What's the one common denominator among these injuries? The answer: Tiger. Tiger is the link. His body is the one wild card in his golf swing. He works and works to hone his swing. He has worked with some of the top swing instructors. He has the best equipment in the game. Yet it's his body that continually lets him down. Throughout Tiger's career, his body, and more specifically his left side, has been screaming at him, alerting him to the fact that something isn't right. Something is off.
Sadly, Tiger has largely missed the mark when it comes to his therapy and rehab. Everything he has done has been focused on the site of the injury rather than the source of the injury. From what I have seen of Tiger and his overall function, his hips have completely shut down. It's crucial that he (and you, for that matter) remember the hips are both the basis of support for the upper half, while simultaneously being the driver of the lower half. And golf is very much an upper-half/lower-half game. The more the golfer can separate (disassociate) his upper and lower half, the better the swing, the greater the power, the farther the drive, etc. Rather than Tiger being able to disassociate his upper body from his lower body using his hips, other parts have started to take up the slack. In my opinion, his lumbar spine has become the genesis for rotation, not his hips. As his his hips have lost function, a painful domino effect has been triggered. His Achilles, knees, low back, elbow, and neck have all suffered the consequences. But these injuries aren't a death-sentence. Quite the opposite, actually,. Tiger has a chance to regain control of his health. He can restore function to his load joints. Specifically, he needs to start by restoring full function and range of motion to the hips, and all of these injuries will be a thing of the past. But if he remains symptom-driven (rather than cause-driven), he can kiss his career goodbye, if it's not already gone.
QUESTION: What is your opinion on all of Tiger's injuries?
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Apparently the #1 ranked golfer in the world isn’t bulletproof.
On Sunday, the PGA’s top-ranked player, Rory McIlroy, posted this photo on his Instagram account, revealing that he had completely torn a ligament in his ankle while playing soccer with his buddies.
Of course it can be said, and it has been said, that his injury was “foolish” and “stupid.” Should the No. 1 golfer in the world be playing soccer? That’s debatable, and folks have weighed in on both ends of the spectrum. I think it’s safe to say that sarcasm and vitriol have ruled the Twitter-sphere over the last few days.
But, while everyone is worried about the short-term impact this injury will have on his World Golf Rankings, I think there is a far greater concern that Rory hasn’t even thought about. Most of the concern has focused around Rory’s ankle, and rightly so. That’s where the injury occurred, and there needs to be focus there. He’ll certainly need to have an intense, tailored rehab program geared toward rehabilitating the ankle. That’s a given.
Everyone in the golf world is asking about when he will return to the course. Early estimates say he’ll be out for at least 6-8 weeks, but most likely longer that that. There was actually talk of him playing through this particular injury, but he confirmed today that he will miss the third major tournament of the year, The Open Championship, scheduled for July 16-19 at St. Andrews
However, I believe Rory’s focus shouldn’t be solely on his ankle, and he shouldn’t worry about when he’ll tee it up again. No, I believe there is a much, much larger potential problem starting him in the face. It’s an issue that is lurking under the surface that he most likely has no idea is even there.
Rory’s hip function is in serious jeopardy.
Think about it: proper ankle function leads to proper hip function, and vice versa. Remember, the foot bone is connected to the ankle bone, and it’s a two-way street. While Rory is hobbling around in a boot for the next several weeks, it might just be his left hip that suffers the most. Take a look at this picture:
Specifically, take a look at the middle of the picture where it says, “Terminal Stance” and “Pre-Swing” as these need to be our areas of focus. As you go through the gait process, Terminal Stance is when your “standing leg” reaches the end point of its contact with the ground. The Pre-Swing phase is when that same leg begins to swing forward. Your hip flexes, lifts your foot off the ground, and propels the leg forward to continue the walking process.
But there’s a key moment where I want us to focus for a second, and it’s precisely what Rory will be missing during the gait cycle for the next several weeks. Focus on the Pre-Swing phase. At that moment, the ankle starts to plantar flex (as if you were pointing your toes to the ground) while the hip is still in extension. When you’re in that toe-off position, the body is readying the hip for engagement. The hip flexor (one of the most important muscles of the human body) is being called into action. The hip is being asked to work, providing a key element to the gait cycle. But for Rory, that isn’t going to happen. He’s in a boot, and he’s on crutches. Not a good combination. Because his ankle isn’t allowed to function properly, there’s no way his hip will function properly. Truth be told, he’s in jeopardy of his left hip shutting down.
Even after the fact when he's out of the boot, because he’ll be timid to load his left foot and ankle when he does return, and because he hasn’t loaded his left hip in weeks due to being on crutches, I believe Rory is setting himself up for a major injury sooner rather than later. If his left hip to shuts down over the next several weeks, he’s really rolling the dice on whether he’ll ever make a full recovery. With Rory’s swing (and any golfer, for that matter), his left hip is incredibly important. It’s his lead hip, his weight-acceptance hip, the one that has to be able to stay down, loaded, and engaged as the club head approaches the ball.
Please understand, I’m not trying to play Nostradamus, but I’ve seen compensatory injuries far too often throughout my Egoscue career to not see it coming. If you’re doubting what I’m saying, you can reference the numerous times I've discussed Tiger Woods' injuries HERE (listen to the radio segment I did), HERE, HERE and HERE.
Not only is Rory in danger of losing hip function, but because he’ll be overcompensating with his upper body during that time as a result of the crutches, he is setting himself up for an upper-body injury down the road as well.
For Rory’s sake, and for the game of golf, I truly hope that history isn't repeating itself and we aren’t seeing the beginning of the end for another No. 1 golfer in the world.
QUESTION: What are your thoughts on Rory’s injury and future?