Doctors To Leave the Sidelines?

September 14, 2017

An editorial from Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research asked orthopedic surgeons to reconsider whether they should support playing football, in light of new data regarding the sport's impact on the brain.

“Individual athletes will decide what sports they will play, and I believe that individual surgeons can — and should — decide whether they are doing more benefit than harm by supporting football with their professional presence, since that sport appears to carry a real risk of permanent neurocognitive impairment,” Seth S. Leopold, Clinical Orthopaedics' editor-in-chief, said.

According to, Leopold's conclusion was based on a study in JAMA, which examined the brains of 202 dead football players. Out of 53 college football players examined, 48 had developed CTE, as had all but one of the 111 NFL players that had been examined.

The editorial said that while orthopedic surgeons would continue to treat any patients that came to their offices or emergency rooms, standing by on the sidelines at football games linked them to football in a way that was not in their best professional interests.

“(I)f orthopedic surgeons stopped covering football teams, other physicians might likewise hesitate or withdraw their support,” the editorial said, “and the result could well be genuine changes at all levels of the sport, and a real reduction in the number of individuals experiencing irreversible brain injury.”

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