Under The Knife: Top surgeons blend research, track records
These are the names no player wants to hear. While a visit to
The first super surgeons came about more than 50 years ago.
As that first generation retired -- only Jobe is still alive -- the work they did lived on through education. Andrews left the Hughston Clinic, went a bit west to Birmingham, and replicated the success. Between the three centers, almost all of the orthopedists working in sports have some connection, often doing fellowships at one or more of the facilities. Even athletic trainers and physical therapists consider themselves as one or the other, referring to themselves as "Andrews guys" or "Jobe guys."
I put together the first rankings of the super surgeons in 2010 and since there's a powerful gravity to these surgeons, it's not surprising that other laws of physics, like inertia, hold as well. Eight of the 10 are the same, with the changes coming more from the research and technique side than the more normal emerging apprentice path. (Of course, Andrews pioneered that as well with his early shift to the then-new arthroscope as he left Hughston's orbit.)
The research side is becoming more influential, especially with an explosion of stem cell-based techniques becoming common. When Andrews stood in front of a conference in Birmingham and said he'd do PRP injections on all his elbow patients as a matter of course, that was a tipping point. As more advanced techniques arise, advances are sure to come, such as that by
Some I spoke with in compiling these rankings even suggested that some doctors who fall just shy of the list are working in fields as diverse as joint replacement, cybernetics and radiology. While it's easy to think of this as pie-in-the-sky work being done to support rich physical freaks, so much translates to the medical care available to the rest of us, that it's clear how much sports medicine leads the way in many other fields. These men -- indeed, they are all men -- are the leaders. Players may not want to hear their names, but when they do, there are no more powerful allies.
It should be no surprise that Andrews holds at No. 1, though how he's doing it remains a singular achievement. Andrews splits his time between two separate facilities with two separate staffs and administrations, and even two separate research facilities, though AREI hasn't developed the same reputation as ASMI. It's a bit of a dilemma for traveling secretaries, who have to check where Andrews will be rather than having a standing flight booked to Birmingham. Andrews was supposed to slow down after a heart attack, but there's no evidence that has been the case. He's seeing more patients than before, doing as many surgeries, putting his name on as many studies, and is still shorthand for a pitcher's arm injury among fans who probably couldn't tell you who their own team doctor is. Andrews is likely to be the No. 1 on this list as long as he chooses to continue practicing -- and that's part of the problem. Andrews' primacy makes it tough for even very solid doctors to step out of his shadow and harder for those doctors to establish himself as super surgeons in their own right.
What gets "Doc Hollywood" this high on the list? The two "Rs": results and recommendations.
Like most of the surgeons on this list,
Does it surprise you that there's only one Ivy League guy on this list?
For years, there was almost an "East Coast/West Coast" vibe to elbow injuries. The East Coast normally went to Andrews, while the West went to
Never heard of
Few doctors come from an engineering background, but
There was a time point when
Sometimes, surgeons rise to the top of their profession based on need. With the rise of cartilage issues across sports,