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Why Orthopedic Surgeons Should Stay on NFL Sidelines: A Position Statement from Hospital for Special Surgery

New York, NY—October 25, 2017

An editorial published in Clinical Orthopedics and Related Research on September 5, 2017 recommended that orthopedic surgeons should stop providing sideline coverage for football games. Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), the national leader in orthopedics, strongly disagrees with this charge.

The Sports Medicine Service at HSS is dedicated to treating athletic injuries and is one of the largest, most active and highly respected departments in athletic medicine today. HSS works with teams and individuals in virtually every professional and competitive sport, and team physicians have been present at Super Bowl championships and Olympic victories. HSS orthopedic surgeons believe that it is their responsibility to utilize their unique position to care for athletes and lead efforts to improve the safety of the sport.

There are medical risks associated with repeated head trauma in all contact sports – not just football. In fact, recent studies have found that concussions are most common in girls’ soccer for high school athletes and men’s wrestling and ice hockey for collegiate athletes.

"You are either 'part of the problem or part of the solution'," said Scott Rodeo MD, sports medicine orthopedic surgeon at HSS and head team physician for the New York Giants. "As physicians, we have taken the Hippocratic Oath which directs us to not abandon our patients."

Orthopedic surgeons have served as NFL head team physicians for over 50 years. If they withdraw, the game of football will still go on and alternate medical professionals will need to replace them, likely lacking the expertise, training and experience acquired over time leading medical teams.

The majority of on-field injuries are musculoskeletal in nature and the ability for the treating physician to be present at the time of injury is immensely valuable. Being able to evaluate an athlete after witnessing the injury allows surgeons to treat the athlete more effectively and has allowed collection of data on these injuries that has provided a significant contribution to research literature.

Athletes will continue to play sports and thus, will continue to suffer injuries. It is the physician’s duty and responsibility to continue to care for each athlete and actively work towards injury prevention.


About HSS | Hospital for Special Surgery
HSS is the world’s leading academic medical center focused on musculoskeletal health. At its core is Hospital for Special Surgery, nationally ranked No. 1 in orthopedics (for the ninth consecutive year) and No. 3 in rheumatology by U.S.News & World Report (2018-2019). Founded in 1863, the Hospital has one of the lowest infection rates in the country and was the first in New York State to receive Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Service from the American Nurses Credentialing Center four consecutive times. The global standard total knee replacement was developed at HSS in 1969. An affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical College, HSS has a main campus in New York City and facilities in New Jersey, Connecticut and in the Long Island and Westchester County regions of New York State. In 2017 HSS provided care to 135,000 patients and performed more than 32,000 surgical procedures. People from all 50 U.S. states and 80 countries travelled to receive care at HSS. In addition to patient care, HSS leads the field in research, innovation and education. The HSS Research Institute comprises 20 laboratories and 300 staff members focused on leading the advancement of musculoskeletal health through prevention of degeneration, tissue repair and tissue regeneration. The HSS Global Innovation Institute was formed in 2016 to realize the potential of new drugs, therapeutics and devices. The culture of innovation is accelerating at HSS as 130 new idea submissions were made to the Global Innovation Institute in 2017 (almost 3x the submissions in 2015). The HSS Education Institute is the world’s leading provider of education on the topic of musculoskeletal health, with its online learning platform offering more than 600 courses to more than 21,000 medical professional members worldwide. Through HSS Global Ventures, the institution is collaborating with medical centers and other organizations to advance the quality and value of musculoskeletal care and to make world-class HSS care more widely accessible nationally and internationally.


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