Coordinated Health

Position Statement: Do Orthopedic Surgeons Belong on the Sidelines?

By: Robert Friedman, MD   November 29, 2017

Editor’s Note: An editorial published in the Philadelphia-based orthopedics journal Clinical Orthopedics and Related Research (CORR) recently recommended that orthopedic surgeons stop providing sideline coverage for American football games. CORR suggested that by supporting American football games, surgeons promote an activity that causes neurocognitive impairment. In response, the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) released a position statement vehemently disagreeing with this stance. CH Sports Medicine Director Dr. Robert Friedman shares his thoughts on the debate.

Orthopedic surgeons should lead the discussion about sideline safety, not turn away from it.

The purpose of our presence on the sideline is to monitor the safety and health of the participants, so we can identify injury quickly and respond with a rational treatment plan. We also provide guidance to the coaching staff and players to help them realize when return to sport on that day is ill-advised.   In this way, we hope to accomplish three primary goals:

  • Minimizing damage
  • Restoring maximum performance
  • Promoting healthy competition

The recent revelations of neurocognitive deficits from repeated brain injury occurred before we implemented a very rigorous series of changes in the way we treat concussions, before equipment modifications and rules changes.  While these changes don’t necessarily indicate that the problem will go away, it is highly likely that the incidence of the problem is far less than stated.  However, even a small percentage is too much, and we recognize that.

The sports medicine physicians of Coordinated Health have provided medical services to local athletes from youth, high school, college and professional levels for over 29 years.  With our guidance, athletes return safely to their sports.  We are also constantly assessing the conditions and making changes based on the best available evidence.

It is our position that we must and will always continue to have the leading role on the field to provide the safest and best environment for participation in all sports.


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