Tiger Woods Has a 'Long Recovery Ahead' After Car Accident, 'But He Is a Fighter': Source

"If anyone can recover from this, it is Tiger," a source tells PEOPLE

Tiger Woods' next major challenge will be working through physiotherapy rehabilitation to heal his injuries.

A source tells PEOPLE that Woods, a 15-time major champion, has a "long recovery ahead" after his single-car rollover crash in the upscale suburb of Rancho Palos Verdes, California, on Tuesday.

"When he is healed enough, he will need other treatments, including physical therapy. But he is a fighter. If anyone can recover from this, it is him," the source says of Woods, who remains hospitalized at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, a level 1 trauma center, where he underwent surgery on his lower right leg and ankle.

"He wore a seatbelt thankfully. Otherwise, he might not have made it," the source adds, echoing similar remarks first given by Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Carlos Gonzalez who said during Tuesday's press conference: "I've seen collisions that didn't look as serious where the occupants were injured much more severely. I think that's just a testament to the fact that he was wearing a seatbelt, airbags worked as intended."

The most recent update on Woods' health came from his team on Wednesday, when they released a statement via the golfer's Twitter account.

Woods "suffered significant orthopedic injuries to his right lower extremity that were treated during emergency surgery by Orthopedic trauma specialists at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center," according to Anish Mahajan, MD, chief medical officer at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. "[Woods] is currently awake, responsive, and recovering in the hospital room."

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods. Rob Carr/Getty

In the statement, Mahajan said Woods had "comminuted open fractures," which means his tibia and fibula bones, the two main bones in the leg, had shattered and broken through the skin, requiring immediate surgery, along with smaller injuries to the ankle and foot.

"This is a very, very severe injury," Dr. Kirk A. Campbell, sports medicine specialist and orthopedic surgeon in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at NYU Langone Health, told PEOPLE. "Not only are the bones broken, but they came through the skin, which places one at a high risk of infection."

Campbell also explained that Woods had a fasciotomy due to the amount of swelling in his leg, which means the muscles in his leg were swelling to the point where they could damage the surrounding arteries and nerves, and that area was cut open to reduce the pressure.

"The combination of all these injuries is quite significant," Campbell said, adding that Woods' injuries could "require additional surgical procedures" over time and potentially "months and months of rehab."

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods. Patrick Smith/Getty

During a press conference on Tuesday, the sheriff's department amended an initial statement and said the jaws of life were not used to extricate Woods from his vehicle in the accident, but a halligan tool was. The sheriff's department is conducting an investigation into the crash.

Following news of Woods' surgeries, an insider told PEOPLE that the athlete "doesn't want his career to end like this," adding, "So if there's any way at all that he can continue playing golf, he will."

Woods, who has undergone five back surgeries and five knee operations, is no stranger to making comebacks on the golf course after health setbacks.

Before the car crash, the father of two was rehabbing from a microdiscectomy surgery in December, his fifth back surgery in the past seven years.

Woods, who had a spinal fusion in April 2017, also had his fifth arthroscopic procedure done on his left knee in August 2019.

The star's last official competition was the Masters in November, when he tied for 38th. Then in December, just days before his fifth back procedure, Woods played the PNC Championship, an exhibition tournament, with his 12-year-old son, Charlie.

"He expected 2021 to be the year of his comeback. Obviously, that's not going to happen now. And that's disappointing to him," the insider told PEOPLE. "This is a massive setback and he knows that it's a massive setback but he's overcome obstacles in the past and thinks he can do it again."

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