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May 10th, 2010
10:57 AM ET

The disk that ruined Tiger’s game

By Madison Park
CNNhealth.com writer/producer

A neck injury has tamed the Tiger.

Golfer Tiger Woods pulled out of the final round of the Players Championship at Sawgrass on Sunday because of what he called “a bulging disk.”

Woods said the pain began before the Masters tournament last month.

Disks are like cushions between the vertebrae in the spine, that act like “miniature jelly doughnuts” and fit “exactly the right size to fit between your vertebrae,” according to the Mayo Clinic’s explanation. A bulging disk means that it is extending beyond the space it should occupy. These types of injuries can occur because of age-related wear and tear on the spine.

Mayo Clinic.com: Herniated disk vs. bulging disk: What's the difference?

Some bulging disks cause little to no pain, but not for Woods.

"I'm having a hard time with the pain," Woods said in a press conference Sunday.

"There's tingling down my fingers, just the right side. Setting up over the ball is fine but once I start making the motion, it's downhill from there." CNN.com: Injury forces Woods out of Players

The treatment of a painful disk may include rest, rest, pain medications, physical therapy, cortisone injections, therapy and surgery. Read more on disk injuries.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Don Mckinley

    I have a degenerating disk on my left side, with extreme pain, numbness, tingling, etc. I went to a chiropractor and have been doing a treatment known as Spinal Decompression Therapy two to three days a week. After two months I am virtually pain free and no longer even considering surgery. Amazing stuff.

    May 10, 2010 at 15:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Steinbeck

    I am not a medical professional but Tiger's workup should include pre and post conditional x-rays to determine whether the vehicular accident he had while trying to flee his wife (upon discovery of some of the affairs with Tattoo Tonya, etc.) could have caused these problems and symptoms. Obviously, TIger was not the same at the Masters – – – even though he floated to an easy 4th place finish (he did it by rote, not by playing well).
    And by your reports, Ty complained of the symptoms prior and during the Masters -- personally I woudn't be surprised if TIger is forced to shut it down for the year! AGAIN!

    And if after extensive rehab Tiger can't get his "old game" back, I suspect he'll seriously consider semi-retirement -- that being only playing Majors and possibly a few sponsors events and Ryder Cup....

    But if Tiger is plagued by ongoing disc injuries his game will probably never be the same.

    May 10, 2010 at 15:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. The Chronic Back Pain Guy

    Good luck! Maybe it was EATING too much while cheating on your wife! Anyway, tingling fingers is more than a little bulge. I have had 4 back surgeries now, next procedure on my neck. I don't have tingling fingers yet, and I have several bulges in my neck. Gupta is not telling you why and how severe it is to have such symptoms! Good Luck!

    May 10, 2010 at 16:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. davan

    Chiropractor = quack doctor.
    If you're "feeling better", its because it is in your head, not anything else.

    Nothing more than a glorified massage therapist.

    May 10, 2010 at 17:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. elo

    His injury was specifically from golf. His affairs were specifically from the fame he got with golf. I would rather have a healthy body and healthy relationship (like I do now) rather than an effed up body and a screwy marriage and all that fame and money. The grass is greener...on my side Mr. Tiger.

    May 10, 2010 at 17:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Dr. Michael Johnson

    I am achiropractor and I had surgery on my neck for two discs that had gone bad. Two discs removed and the vertebrae fused. The initial symptoms (tingling/numbness and pain) that one experiences with this condition WILL get worse over time. As a thought...if surgery is required, Tiger's swing will change because of the muscles deterioration during down time and the nerves are never quite the same. I also play a little golf but my swing wasn't so affected since I didn't have much to work with from the start. 🙂

    May 10, 2010 at 17:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. david

    Waahh, I am not playing well and everyone hates me now so I quit...OOOOPs, I mean my back hurts, yeh, that's it, my back.

    May 10, 2010 at 18:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Mike Whitehead

    Sounds like either the C4-5 or C5-6 cervical disks in the neck. I experienced very similar symptoms and ended up having both disks fused. Hard to say what led the disks to bulge and/or rupture, but it is not something you want to fool with. The good news is that if this is the problem and he gets it tended to promptly, recovery time is relatively short and he should be able to play at a professional level again. The bad news is that most doctors will only operate after having unsuccessfully gone through a whole string of less invasive treatments. Surgery is generally the last option - and surgery offers no guarantees, just percentage odds of full recovery. My experience, after having undergone 14 major surgeries, is that the process could take up to a year before surgery will be considered. An exception might be made due to the problems having a major impact on your quality of life. Which in Tiger's case would be loss of his career. I wish him the best of luck.

    May 10, 2010 at 20:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Eli

    Good luck Tiger! Get a good rest and comeback as better as before. Take care of your health.

    May 10, 2010 at 21:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Tim C.

    The Chronic Back Pain Guy may have had many surgeries but he sounds as if he knows little about disc injuries. I have bad discs in my neck and in my lower back. Both were caused by many years of physical labor. I have not had any back or neck surgeries and don't intend to. My fingers are tingling all of the time and when I cough my chest muscles go into uncontrollable spasms for 10-20 seconds. I also have severe sciatica caused by the "leaking" disc in my lower back. My injuries were not caused by cheating or overeating. I suspect Mr. Woods injuries were cause by repetitive stress on the neck, period.

    May 10, 2010 at 21:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. c kelly

    Bulging discs exist in 50 % of the nl population. He hasn't even had a scan yet and everyone is sreaming bulging disc because thats what he called it. Iirresponsible reporting based on Tiger blaming it a problem he doesn't even know he has. Arm symptoms are very common in many neck problems without disc issues. we ;'re way ahead of the game here. It all, could be nothing, muscular, psychosomatic or a publicity ploy. Stop the speculation and get to the truth.

    May 10, 2010 at 21:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Bob

    This is something.

    I watched a reputable Sports Illustrated interview with someone who has watched Tiger his whole career. He is not sold that Tiger really has the injury claimed.

    At the Masters, there was no talk or hint of a problem, only about his lack of rounds.
    At his next tournament, he doesn't make the cut. He doesn't let on there is a problem. Not a hint. He says in an off-hand sarcastic manner that he is going home and watch the "real" players over the weekend.

    Now to the Players Championship, After the first two rounds, he is -3 along with Phil Mickelson. Going into the third round, Mickelson moves to -9 but Tiger doesn't score well. In fact most of the players are shooting low.

    Finally, after 10 holes and 10 off the lead, he pulls out. Isn't this the same guy who won a major playing on one good leg. Come on, the guy is used to playing with pain.

    The SI guy says that he's having a hard time believing Tiger different statements since returning. He says it's a mixed bag and you cannot separate the truth from a lie.

    Who knows what's going on. There is one given after the new Tiger has returned to golf, expect the unexpected. Also expect that the rest of the pro's no longer seem to fear him like before.

    We don't know when the old Tiger will show up but I can't wait.

    May 11, 2010 at 00:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Steven Lomazow, M.D.

    I find it somewhat incredulous how "Doctor Woods" self diagnosis of a bulging disk unrelated to his car accident can be so easily accepted. He apparantly has not yet even had an MRI, a routine exam that can be performed at a moment's notice, for symptoms described that are consistent with radiculopathy, or, in layman's terms a "pinched nerve".
    A person making a multimillion dollar living that was affected by a medical condition, surely would try to get an accurate and professional assessment of my condition as soon as possible. Something is not adding up here, and until clear objective evidence is provided, any diagnosis or etiology is premature.

    May 11, 2010 at 06:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Jack

    Davan, clearly you are uneducated. Most chiropractors these days use spinal decompression for bad discs, same as physical therapists or sports medicine physicians. Schooling has changed, things are rapidly advancing. Chiropractors are to be part of the health teams under new health care plan.

    Your views are archaic. I encourage you to get educated.

    Chiropractic is no different than any other health profession these days, some practitioners are excellent, some are bad, and most probably are somewhere in the middle.

    May 11, 2010 at 09:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Glen Rasmussen, D.C.

    Golfers are very prone to mechanical neck pain, Facet synovitis. As Dr. Lomazow pointed out a MRI would shed some light as to the degree of the bulge or herniation. However most people 40% have bulging discs with no pain. The disc itself has no major pain receptors except on the periphery or if it causes, central canal or IVF stenosis. Recent studies using Fat-Saturated Mri demonstrate how most mechanical neck and back pain can cause radicular pain, Sclerotogenous pain, which is a more generalized pain into the shoulder and arm, and when sever can cause the numbness and tingling. Pain Medicine
    Volume 9 Issue 4, Pages 400 – 406
    Published Online: 20 Aug 2007
    This is the typical mechanical neck pain that I treat routinely. Adjusting the hypomobile segments above and below the hypermobile mid-cervical spine can usually bring about quick relief from these symptoms and can prevent recurrence of this syndrome.

    May 11, 2010 at 10:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. victor Crocco

    A injury like that will cause pain the rest of his life. After the body gets used to the pain then it will drain your energy. It is the energy drain that is the problem with disk problems. All the treatments that are mentioned above help the pain but do nothing for the energy drain. I think the energy drain not the pain will keep Tiger from winning at golf.

    May 11, 2010 at 11:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Debbie

    I have a disc herniation at T12, L5, S1, and now likely C6. the pain is so bad I can't play golf, then again I never could. LOL, boo hoo for Tiger, he probably gets anything he wants from doctors, the rest of us just suffer.

    May 11, 2010 at 12:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. indy

    sounds like a bunch of haters always wanna say some thing about some thing they know nothing about,before you start throwing stones why not wait untill the indisputable truth comes out and you have a inkling of whats happening before you start running off at the mouth like a bunch cackling gossiping old biddies

    May 11, 2010 at 12:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Dennis

    Neck discs are no laughing matter as they can push directly on the spinal cord (as well as the nerves of the arms and chest) and can cause severe permanent damage. I know, I had a fusion done to C5-C6 because of the edema there that shut down my right leg (I cannot run anymore and walk with a limp). These are not the same as the lower back discs which push on the sciatic nerves. Those nerves can regenerate after the dics pressure is relieved by surgery or therapy. Spinal cord injuries are permanent. I now survive with severe stenosis at C3-C4, C4-C5 and C6-C7 probably from playing too much football and sticking my head into places where it didn't belong (similar to a car crash?). When the neck flares up (the pain radiates down the chest, shoulder blade, back of the arm and into the fingers) I have had relative success in the past with steriod shots into the nerve roots in the neck to treat the problem. I also see a chiropractor for longer term stability. But now I'm fighting a losing fight as I have not been able to play golf this year (18 handicap) and need to make some decisions...more shots...surgery...or?

    May 11, 2010 at 13:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. John Mahoney

    Nice try, but no sale. The disc problem that Tiger has is not located in his neck – it's a little lower down.

    May 11, 2010 at 16:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Beverly

    Again, without any knowledge of what is actually going on with Tiger's neck, you bring it to another low point. How many of you were with him on the course Sunday, when he withdrew? None of us. How quick you are to judge another person, yet you certainly don't want anyone judging you. It this the American way. I am sick and tired of the comments about Tiger Woods, you are either jealous or you get some sort of pleasure of beating the same person over and over again. Tiger does not owe you, me, or the world anything. He is where he is because of his skill, not because any of you helped him. Playing golf is a skill, it is not a team sport. He is who is without mistakes, problems, etc., just had not lived long enough. They will come.

    May 11, 2010 at 17:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Medical professionals???....

    If chiropracters were true medical professionals, then the different branches of the military would have them as part of their arsenals of providers. I spent 30 years in the military medical corp retiring as a full Colonel and never once did I see a chiropracter wear a set of shoulder boards. That there should tell you something about their acceptance amongst other medical providers.

    May 12, 2010 at 00:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Sue

    Sure is convenient. Reports to be in 100% good health and then when he can't hit the ball right he drops out like a kindergartener and claims an unsubstantiated neck injury.

    May 12, 2010 at 10:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. vkmo

    My disk hasn't hurt for about 2-3 years. Prior to that it used to hurt. I suggest that he get treatment and then he will be able to play normally.

    May 12, 2010 at 21:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Dr. Glen Rasmussen

    What did I tell you, in my last post, the most common cause of this type of pain is early DJD/ wear at the joints of the Mid-cervical spine, usually C4/5 and C5/6 levels and a swollen facet, ie: facet synovitis. A golfer trying to keep his head down with eyes on the ball through the swing will cause a lot of torsion/wear in the mid-C spine. A recent paper published, Pain Medicine
    Volume 9 Issue 4, Pages 400 – 406
    Published Online: 20 Aug 2007, Fat-Saturated MR Imaging in the Detection of Inflammatory Facet
    Arthropathy (Facet Synovitis) in the Lumbar Spine can easily be extrapolated to the Cervical spine.
    A good Chiropractor can manipulate/adjust the upper cervical spine, which accounts for 50% of Flexion/Extension of the C0/C1 level and 50% of rotation at the C1/C2 level. This will take the torsion off the mid cervical spine and reduce the cause of the hypermobile DJD synovitis. Secondarily check the C7/T1 first rib junction.

    May 13, 2010 at 07:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Neck Doctor

    There is a photo of Tiger with one of my colleagues hanging on the wall at my Alma Mater, New York Chiropractic College in the admissions building. Tiger has been using Chiropractic care now for years. They follow him on tour and are paid by the PGA.
    To the confused colonel in the military please open your eyes. There are Chiropractors in every V.A. hospital in the United States. Ive personally worked at the one in Bethesda Maryland, and I don't wear shoulder boards. Don't try to use an analogy of acceptance among other health professionals in the military to fulfill your convoluted views on various specialty field doc's. I work with MD's, Radiologist, neurologist, nurses they all love what I do and understand the importance of Chiropractic care in the veterans hospitals and someday I hope you do too.

    May 18, 2010 at 16:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. mmdoc

    Two thumbs up Neck Doctor.

    My staff doctor in chiropractic school was a retired Army Lt. Colonel. He has been working at Lackland AFB for over 10 years now. Maybe the confused colonel would like consult with him on the acceptance of chiropractic by the military.

    May 27, 2010 at 18:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Zaira

    Awesome article! Thanks for this great article.This is so informative.

    August 6, 2010 at 03:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Chris W. Burfield

    Tiger has been using a chiropractor for years...which is one reason why he's been able to stay at the top of his game...even he says that chiropractic is as important to his game as practicing his swing. http://www.chiropracticundergorund.com

    September 8, 2010 at 01:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Chris W. Burfield

    Tiger has been using a chiropractor for years...which is one reason why he's been able to stay at the top of his game...even he says that chiropractic is as important to his game as practicing his swing. http://www.chiropracticunderground.com

    September 8, 2010 at 01:47 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.