Tigers Woods won the Masters championship on Sunday, one of the greatest comebacks in sports history, and he might have his spinal fusion surgery to thank for that.
Woods, 43, had the procedure in April 2017. Since then we've seen a remarkable return to form after the career-threatening back injury.
Woods underwent surgery to alleviate chronic pain in his back and leg. It's a procedure called anterior lumbar interbody fusion, or ALIF.
Dr. Greg Lopez, a spine surgeon at Midwest Orthopedics at Rush, performs the procedure several times a week. He said that the L5/S1 disc is commonly where athletes have issues.
"The disc wears out and this bone ends up touching this bone here," Lopez said.
Lopez said the surgery entails removing the damaged disc and re-elevating the collapsed disc space to normal levels, relieving the pressure on the nerve.
The minimally invasive procedure allows doctors to access the spine through the patient's side.
"For this surgery we really aren't going through the back. We aren't cutting any of those muscles or causing soft tissue trauma that occurs with muscle dissection," Lopez said.
This also allows for a faster recovery time.
Woods was back in training within 10 months.
"They're able to get up and walk the same day. We don't give them braces and they're able to get up and get moving pretty quickly," Lopez said.