After seven years and 142 tournaments in a row, Tiger Woods finally joined the ranks of mortal golfers when he missed the cut at the Byron Nelson Championship May 13, 2005. Golf pundits argue that changing his swing is to blame. Tiger defends his decision stating "I felt like I could get better. People thought it was asinine for me to change my swing after I won the Masters by 12 shots. ... Why would you want to change that? Well, I thought I could become better." But, that is only part of the story.
In 2002, according to Jaime Diaz of Golf Digest Magazine, Woods had a persistent, nagging ache in his left knee. The symptoms were bad enough that prior to a round, he took pain killers. Tiger began modifying his swing because his knee hurt. Tiger was quoted as saying "The more the knee hurt, the more I'd have to make alterations in the swing to try to make solid contact. The more alterations I made, the more distance I lost, because I was actually moving away from the ball a lot, slowing down, trying not to make it hurt." So, why did Tiger's knee hurt?
After playing the 2002 season in pain, Tiger had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. Surgeons discovered excess fluid in the knee, a cyst and a loose anterior cruciate ligament. With these types of findings, I would expect to find articular cartilage damage in the operative report as well. Fluid in the knee is almost always associated with cartilage damage. A loose anterior cruciate ligament permits shifting of the knee that creates a grinding type of force on the joint surface. This type of repetitive trauma typically accelerates degenerative changes in the knee.
A cyst in the knee, in this case benign, is a sac filled with fluid or a semi-solid material and is most often associated with an intra-articular problem like a loose or torn ligament (43%) or cartilage damage (32%). Tiger's surgery in 2002 was the second time he had a cyst removed. His first cyst removal was in 1994. Tiger has had knee trouble for at least a decade if not longer. And, he is only 29 years old.
Tiger changed his swing because his knee hurt. The warning signs were there; aching, pain, stiffness, needing pain killers to play. But, he failed to heed the warning likely because he did not understand the significance of the messages. Instead, his knee worsened forcing him to tinker with a phenomenal swing and finally, go under the knife.
The message for you lies in what Tiger said in his interview, "The more the knee hurt, the more I'd have to make alterations in the swing". Maybe you have a "swing" you have modified; something in your life you have changed because you want the pain to go away. Instead of changing your swing, change your thinking. Stop and ask yourself, "Why is this happening? What does this mean? What is wrong?" rather than "How can I make this go away?"
There is no transformation without perturbation. Pain perturbs you because it is begging you to change how you think and ultimately what you choose to do. Will you listen and change or chase the pain away?
Author. Speaker. Therapist.
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