Golf champion Tiger Woods suffered multiple injuries to his right leg on Tuesday this week, when his SUV was involved in a single-vehicle crash on a stretch of road in Los Angeles known for collisions. The car went through the central reservation into the opposite traffic lane, rolled over, and then went off an embankment. The LA County Sheriff has confirmed that Woods was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time, and that he will not be facing criminal charges.
In a new video, YouTuber and physical rehabilitation specialist Dr. Brian Sutterer provides a layman’s rundown of Woods’ various injuries (none of which were life-threatening), starting with an explanation of the term “communated open fracture.”
“Communated basically means that the bone was in a bunch of different pieces,” he says. “This could be what they were referring to when they said his ankle ‘shattered’, because with a communated ankle you really do have a lot of smaller pieces of bone, as opposed to just a clean, single-line break.”
Sutterer adds that an open fracture is one where the bone comes through the skin, also known as a compound fracture. “This is serious because of the risks of infection,” he says. “You’ve broken out of the protective environment, there’s a way for bacteria and bad stuff to get in there and cause complications.”
As the fracture affects the upper and lower tibia (shinbone) and fibula, Sutterer reasons that an intermedullary rod will have been inserted between the knee and ankle. “They basically put a metal rod inside the tibia through a space called the medullary canal, that allows the tibia to be brought back into proper alignment and heal.”
Woods also suffered fractures to the bones of his foot and ankle, which doctors stabilized with screws and pins. What Sutterer finds most concerning, however, is damage to the leg’s soft tissue and muscles, which required surgical release in order to relieve pressure from swelling, also known as compartment syndrome. “If pressure gets high enough, you can cut off blood flow to those muscles, and that tissue can start to die,” he says.
“Woods is not out of the woods yet,” he continues. “Because he had an open fracture, we’ve got to worry about things like infection. He had compartment syndrome. All of this stuff together just makes a much more complicated injury… Oftentimes when injuries like this happen, we’re not thinking about the ligaments, all those other soft tissues. So it’s very possible that he could have torn an ACL, a PCL, or torn something in his arms. There’s going to be a lot of subsequent steps here, as part of his recovery, to see what else might have been affected.”
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