Tiger Wins Through Pain ... But at What Cost?

Just two days after a dramatic playoff victory in the 2008 U.S. Open golf tournament, Tiger Woods today announced that he'll skip the rest of the 2008 season due to persistent problems with his troublesome left knee, which will now require another surgery -- his second in one year.

On his Web site, tigerwoods.com, Woods announced he will undergo reconstructive surgery on the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), one of the four major stabilizing ligaments in the knee. He must also take time off to rehabilitate a double stress fracture of his left tibia that was discovered last month.

Woods' pain was apparent from Thursday's start through Monday's playoff finish. Fans winced along with golf's master as he drove the ball down many a fairway at the U.S. Open, clearly experiencing pain in his left knee, which underwent arthroscopic surgery two days after he finished second in the Masters in April.

On Monday afternoon, after 91 grueling holes, all that pain seemed to have turned into gain for Woods, as he clinched his 14th major championship.

But was it worth it?

Wednesday's news suggests that playing the five-day marathon U.S. Open may have put his near-term future in doubt.

"I know much was made of my knee throughout the last week, and it was important to me that I disclose my condition publicly at an appropriate time," Woods said in a statement on his Web site. "I wanted to be very respectful of the USGA and their incredibly hard work, and make sure the focus was on the U.S. Open. Now, it is clear that the right thing to do is to listen to my doctors, follow through with this surgery, and focus my attention on rehabilitating my knee."

The report on Woods' Web site said his doctors have assured him that his long-term prognosis is good with rehabilitation and training.

How Long Will He Be Out?

"I'm glad I'm done," Woods told reporters shortly after his victory when asked how he felt about playing five days in a row, just two months after surgery. "I really don't feel like playing anymore. It's a bit sore."

"I'm going to shut it down for a little bit here and see what happens," he said.

Woods' return to the game is uncertain, and he will face months of rehabilitation after this second surgery. It will likely involve a reconstruction of the ACL, in which a graft is used to replace the torn ligament.

Many doctors put the timeline of his competitive return well into next season.

"We usually allow patients to do certain movements at six months -- straight-ahead movements like walking or exercise on a stationary bike," says Dr. Michael Bronson, associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. "But in terms of a return to a sport where they're actually pivoting on the reconstructed knee, we don't allow that for 9 to 12 months."

Like anyone else who undergoes this surgery, Woods will need a considerable amount of time to heal.

"He's such a fine-tuned piece of machinery, but he bleeds like we do," says Dr. Robert Klapper, chief of orthopedic surgery at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and author of the book "Heal Your Knees: How to Prevent Knee Surgery and What to Do If You Need It."

Doctors say that only Woods and his orthopedic surgeon know the exact nature of the damage to his left knee, and whether pushing through the U.S. Open would have caused additional injury.

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