Sports·The Buzzer

Can Tiger Woods come back from this?

CBC Sports' daily newsletter assesses Tiger's chances of returning to competitive golf after the horrific leg injuries he suffered in his vehicle crash.

Returning from these injuries would be his most astounding comeback yet

Tiger Woods has come back from injuries before. But none like this. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports' daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what's happening in sports by subscribing here.

Tiger Woods' injuries might be too much this time

Since yesterday's newsletter, more details have surfaced about the damage done to the golfer's right leg when he rolled the vehicle he was driving yesterday in Southern California. And it does not sound good.

Tiger's camp released a statement around midnight ET saying he had "undergone a long surgical procedure on his lower right leg and ankle." The statement also included descriptions of the injuries and the surgery from the head of the hospital where it was performed by orthopedic trauma specialists. He used a lot of medical jargon but, basically, the lower part of Woods' right leg was crushed and the major bones shattered.

Woods' tibia and fibula bones splintered into pieces in multiple places and punctured through his skin. A rod was inserted into the tibia (the larger of the two bones) to deal with that. "Additional injuries to the bones of the foot and ankle" (no details were provided) "were stabilized with a combination of screws and pins," the hospital head added. He also said surgeons had to cut into tissue to reduce swelling and pressure from "trauma to the muscle and soft tissue of the leg." Woods' people added that he was "currently awake, responsive and recovering in his hospital room."

Once this statement made it clear that Tiger's life was not in danger, and that his injuries — at least the most serious ones — seem to be concentrated in his right leg, the next question became: could this end his golf career?

No one seems to have that answer right now — partly because there are (thankfully) few instances of an athlete's body being damaged quite like this. Football is the only major sport capable of regularly producing car-crash-level injuries, so the closest recent comparison to what Woods could be facing might be NFL quarterback Alex Smith.

While playing for Washington in November 2018, Smith's right leg got caught at an awkward angle as he was sacked by two Houston defenders. He broke his tibia and fibula, and bone punctured the skin. An infection after Smith's initial surgery caused doctors to fear he'd lose the leg and maybe even his life. He ultimately needed 17 operations on the leg.

It took Smith almost two full years to get back into an NFL game, which he did last season. It was a great story and he was named the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year, but he wasn't the same. He only got in because of injury and/or gross incompetence by Washington's other two QBs, and he threw more interceptions than touchdowns as the leg hampered him. For their playoff game, Washington chose to start a journeyman with one NFL start over Smith.

Obviously, every injury is different and golf is easier to return to than football. But Tiger is 45 — nine years older than Smith — and his body had already been through a lot. At the time of his crash, he was working to return from a December back surgery — his fifth — that was threatening his career. And, according to this lengthy list of Woods injuries compiled by The Associated Press in March 2019, he'd already undergone four surgeries on his left knee. Now he's recovering from these massive injuries to his right leg, ankle and foot, and additional surgeries seem like a possibility. If someone showed you this medical history and told you to guess what sport the person plays, you'd probably say pro football. By golf standards, the damage Woods has endured to his body over the last couple of decades is staggering.

It's too early to tell if the greatest golfer of all time will be able to play the game at a high level again. He's surprised us before, winning the 2019 Masters after his fourth back surgery left him openly questioning whether he'd be able to compete anymore. But, for his 15th major title to not be his last, Tiger might need to pull off his most astonishing feat yet. Read more about what he's facing here.

Tiger Woods hospitalized after car crash

The National

3 months ago
2:02
Golf superstar Tiger Woods needed surgery after a car crash in Los Angeles on Tuesday that left him with multiple leg injuries. Officials say he was conscious when pulled from the wrecked SUV and the injuries are not life threatening. 2:02

Quickly...

The Montreal Canadiens fired head coach Claude Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller. The Habs looked like a possible Cup contender when they started the season 8-2-2. But they have only one win in the six games since then, and they've lost all three coming out of their one-week break. Worse, they just dropped back-to-back games to lowly Ottawa. Julien was in his second stint as the Canadiens' head coach. He never made it past the second round of the playoffs with them, though with Boston he won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and reached the final in 2013. Montreal promoted assistant Dominique Ducharme to interim head coach. He coached Canada to gold at the world juniors in 2018 and silver the previous year. Read more about him and the other changes to Montreal's coaching staff here.

The IOC wants Australia to host the 2032 Summer Olympics. A Brisbane-based bid was selected today by the IOC's executive board for exclusive talks. The sides will now enter into "targeted dialogue" (the IOC's phrase) and, if all goes well, they'll make it official. This leaves only one of the next seven Olympics without at least a tentative host — the 2030 Winter Games. Read more about why Brisbane was picked so early here.

There's only one perfect rink left at the Scotties. Defending champion Team Canada, skipped by Kerri Einarson, improved to 6-0 by beating Yukon in the morning draw while Pool A rival Ontario (Rachel Homan) fell to 5-1 with a loss to the Northwest Territories. Pool B was considerably messier heading into Draw 14. Quebec (Laurie St-Georges) and the wild-card team skipped by Chelsea Carey were tied for first at 4-2, with four rinks right behind them at 3-2, including six-time champ Jennifer Jones' Manitoba. The top four in each pool advance to the next round. Read more about today's results here and catch tonight's episode of That Curling Show with host Devin Heroux and six-time Scotties champ Colleen Jones at 7:30 p.m. ET on the CBC Olympics Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages.

And finally…

A guy in the Czech Republic swam for 81 metres under ice. David Vencl held his breath for 95 seconds as he covered the equivalent of more than 1½ lengths of an Olympic-size pool in a frozen-over lake. There was at least 30cm of ice above him at all times and he did it without using any fins, diving suit, cap or weights. The distance broke an eight-year-old world record, according to Guinness. Read more about it here.

Coming up on CBC Sports

Cross-country skiing world championships: Watch the women's and men's sprint finals in Germany live Thursday from 5:30-7 a.m. ET here.

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