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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.



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