Like many Americans, Tiger Woods began to experience lower back pain last year. Initially, Tiger appeared to be coping with the injury but continued use of his back caused the pain to return with alarming regularity. As a result of this pain, Tiger was forced to withdraw in the final round of the Honda Classic. Additionally, the pain caused Tiger to fall to his knees immediately after swinging at a ball in the final rounds of The Barclays. On March 28, 2014 Tiger Woods had microdiscetomy surgery to fix a pinched nerve in his back, which had been impacting Tigers for close to a year.
To relieve pressure and pain caused by a herniated disc, a microdiscetomy is sometimes done. A microdiscectomy is a minimally invasive surgery where doctors operate through a small incision in the lower back. The operation involves removing small disc fragments that are pressing against spinal nerves.
The average recovery time for an athlete receiving this type of surgery is generally 3-4 months. Tiger’s complete recovery still remains unclear. However, Tiger continues to state that he hopes to be back before the end of this summer, which means he is expecting a full recovery within 5 months. News and other media have continued to report Tiger’s statements and there is much hype about what appears to be a speedy recovery.
While golf fans appreciate the constant coverage of Tiger’s progress, his story and other similar stories of professional athletes making speedy recoveries post surgery may in the end hurt the average plaintiff in a personal injury case claiming a back injury. An individual who hears about Tiger Woods and then serves on a jury may be likely to think that a back injury and back surgery is no big deal. A jury may equate Tiger Wood’s recovery with that of 52 year-old laborer who had a discectomy after a car accident.
This comparison is unfair for several reasons. First, not all back injuries are the same. Surgery for a “pinched nerve” differs depending on the patient, the age of the patient and the type of trauma suffered Trauma sustained in a car accident is completely different from a chronic overuse injury to the back. In addition, Tiger Woods is a professional athlete who keeps his body in top physical shape and who will receive the best medical treatment available. An average “non athlete” will never heal similarly.
Juries are unlikely to recognize that even for an athlete in top physical shape, a 3-4 month recovery time may be overly ambitious. More specifically, last December Cowboys quarterback had the same surgery as Tiger. However, Romo did not start throwing a football until May, almost five months after his surgery.
The media is a prevalent part of our society and it sometimes unintentionally hurts individuals with its constant coverage. In this case, the media is harming plaintiffs suffering from some type of back injury. And Tiger Woods, though no fault of his own, has made the climb for back surgery victims seeking justice in a civil jury trial a little harder.