Tiger Woods: “Running destroyed my body and my knees”

Earlier this year Tiger was quoted saying: “Running over 30 miles a week for probably my first five, six years on tour pretty much destroyed my body and my knees.”

This was a controversial quote in the health care & running community! I participated in a Running Symposium in the Spring where the speaker was very unhappy with Tiger for saying this!

Upon further research, Tiger really said: “Not to run so much” early in his career, not to eliminate running in general.

Tiger would run 4 miles in the morning (6k) and then another 4 miles in the evening after a workout and practice on the golf course. So I would agree with Tiger. Running 12 km a day on top of all his other activity probably wasn’t wise.

There are a lot of misconceptions around running and Knee Osteoarthritis (OA), where many people believe the OA is caused from the running. Well that depends. There are a lot of factors that contribute to Knee OA: age, genetic disposition, weight (VERY IMPORTANT), occupational workload and previous injury.

Also, how frequent do you run? What distances do you run? Are you an elite runner or a recreational runner? How long have you been exposed to these amounts of running?

I would say Tiger was definitely in the elite category: running 30 miles a week for 5 or 6 years is definitely outside the recreational range. If you put his ‘occupational workload’ into the mix, the torque and power with his golf swing definitely adds a lot of load on top of the running.

Studies have actually shown that recreational running lowers the odds of knee (and hip) OA compared to competitive runners and non-runners. So maybe if Tiger ran 15 miles a week or even just one 4-mile run, 3 days a week? Exact running prescription (in the literature) is unclear, but definitely needs to be individualized for the person based on the factors listed above.

As much as I don’t like Tiger blaming running on his body’s issues, maybe if he was advised to modify his running early on, on top of all the other loads his body would take throughout the day would have helped his outcome.

(Knee OA is a complex issue and I will be doing some more posts on management of his condition in the future!)

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