Last week it was announced that 15-time major champion Tiger Woods would be withdrawing from his own tournament, the Hero World Challenge, due to plantar fasciitis. It was disappointing news for fans who long to see him back on the leaderboard. Many wonder if he’ll be able to legitimately contend in The Match on December 10th or if he’ll be able to compete alongside his son, Charlie, in The PNC Championship later this month.
We reached out to fellowship trained and board certified orthopedic surgeon, Dr. David Beck with CMC Orthopaedics, who specializes in foot and ankle, to break down Tiger’s injury and explain how this common condition can affect anyone.
What is plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the tight band of tissue on the bottom of your foot that stretches from your heel bone toward your toes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 10 percent of people get it, but why would an athlete like Tiger Woods have to pull out of a tournament because of plantar fasciitis?
“Plantar fasciitis can be extremely painful,” explained Dr. Beck. “Some patients have such significant pain that they feel they cannot bear weight on the leg. While weight bearing on the affected extremity is allowed with plantar fasciitis, Tiger may not have been able to make it through the event without the pain affecting his mechanics and prohibiting him from playing at the level demanded of him in a PGA event.”
How does plantar fasciitis affect athletes like Tiger?
The plantar fasciitis that Tiger is experiencing could be loosely related to the trauma he sustained in his February 2021 car accident, however for most athletes it’s simply an overuse injury.
“Plantar fasciitis is sometimes referred to as jogger’s heel,” said Dr. Beck. “This is because it is more commonly developed in long distance runners. Once this sets in, athletes may need a period of rest from their sport to allow symptoms to settle down. But since athletes have conditioned their bodies and they have relatively quick recovery periods, for them plantar fasciitis is often self-resolving and may be shorter lived than for those with a more sedentary lifestyle.”
It’s important to note as Dr. Beck did, that plantar fasciitis does not only affect athletes. It can affect anyone, including those that spend long periods of time on their feet.
Some other contributors to plantar fasciitis are:
- Structure and shape of your foot such as flat feet or high arches
- Type of footwear you use
- Working or exercising on hard surfaces
- Increases to your normal activity levels like starting a new exercise regime
- Other medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis
How would you treat plantar fasciitis for an athlete like Tiger?
Tiger Woods benefits from having high quality athletic trainers, conditioning experts, and physicians to keep him at his peak. “The initial management would be much like that for any other patient,” described Dr. Beck. “Rest and anti-inflammatory and an at-home exercise program focused on stretching of the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon. Night splints can help keep these structures stretched at night. Heel cushions or orthotics can sometimes help to offload the area of discomfort while it calms down. Occasionally, a corticosteroid injection can quickly alleviate symptoms, but runs the risk of weakening the plantar fascia in the long run.”
There are newer cutting-edge treatments that Dr. Beck spotlighted for conditions such as plantar fasciitis. “Several promising treatment modalities that may be a good option for Tiger Woods are platelet-rich plasma, bone marrow aspirate concentrate, dry-needling, and extracorporeal shockwave therapy,” listed Dr. Beck, “but these types of treatments are typically only cash pay which makes it difficult for those without Tiger’s financing to receive them.”
For a condition like plantar fasciitis, there is no magic treatment or pill. Rest, stretching, ice, and possibly physical therapy for some is the best medicine for recovery. At CMC Orthopaedics, we focus on non operative treatment options that have shown to be successful in providing our patients with relief of their tendon and ligament issues.
How long does it take to recover from plantar fasciitis?
Woods hasn’t competed professionally since the Open Championship in July 2022. Many have hoped that this hiatus would mean that he would finally come back stronger and ready to play like the Tiger of old. This new hurdle has us still wondering when he’ll be able to return.
“For Tiger, he can likely expect his symptoms to settle down rather quickly with a period of rest and the implementation of stretching with his trainers and therapists. However, his injuries may have led to some level of permanent contracture of his Achilles which could make this a more nagging problem if so. As discussed above, athletes have a great ability to recover from injuries and stresses to their bodies. For the average person first seeing a physician for this problem, weeks to months can be expected before a significant improvement is seen with a solid stretching program.”
Plantar fasciitis can typically take anywhere from 3-12 months to get better, but how fast you heal depends on your level of activity and how consistently you’re using at-home treatments. “Most people can expect a full recovery from plantar fasciitis and a full return to sport or activity,” explained Dr. Beck. “After I initially see a patient for plantar fasciitis, I typically check in with them 4-6 weeks after starting home exercise or physical therapy for stretching and routinely see a significant improvement at that time.”
“As for Tiger, plantar fasciitis will not stop his eventual return to golf. This is just another hurdle that was thrown into the mix of his other numerous injuries and surgeries. He’ll be playing professional golf again, hopefully, sooner than later.”
Treatment for tendon and ligament issues of the foot and ankle
At CMC Orthopaedics, Dr. David Beck is providing successful treatment for a variety of foot and ankle conditions. He understands how important it is for his patients to get back to their daily routines, whether their professional athletes who want to return to their sport or someone who wants to restore mobility and get back to the game of life. Minimal downtime, maximum mobility, and optimal pain relief is Dr. Beck’s goal with every patient.
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