You might be wondering, how did the field of orthopedics start? How did this distinct surgical sub-specialty find its thrust to develop into what we know today? You’ll be surprised to know that evidence of doctors who specialized in the disorders of the musculoskeletal system have actually been recorded really early in time. Here is a brief history of orthopedics, to answer all of your questions.
In ancient Eqypt, splints have been found on mummies made of bamboo, reeds, wood or bark, padded with linen. On the other hand, in ancient Greece, the works of Hippocrates detail the treatment for dislocations of the shoulders, knees, and hips, as well as treatments for infections resulting from compound fractures.
Galen, a Greek physician and philosopher in the Roman empire became a gladiatorial surgeon. His learning helped provide the best care possible for the Roman army. He is often referred to as the father of modern medicine, and many of his techniques and teachings were standard throughout the Middle Ages.
The start of modern day orthopedics, however, has an interesting story. Previously, disorders and injuries of the musculoskeletal system were cared for only by general surgeons. We now focus on how orthopedic surgery struggled and fought for its own unique identity.
The term orthopaedics was coined in 1741 by Nicholas André, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of the College de France. He combined two Greek words orthos, meaning straight or free of deformity and paidios, a child. The reason for using these terms is his conviction that the prevention of deformities in adults depended on that of childhood development. Later, the term will be adopted to identify the important medical discipline that concerns itself with the disorders and injuries affecting the musculoskeletal system.
With this new and upcoming field of sub-specialty in surgery, there was also an increasing number of interested physicians who wanted to specialize in the disorders of the musculoskeletal system. A few of these hopefuls founded the American Orthopaedic Association in 1887, the first formal orthopedic organization in the world.
But it was World War I that became the thrust for orthopedics to develop. During that time, there was a large number of musculoskeletal cases brought about by injuries from war. By 1935 the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery had been formed and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons established.
Since then, many other prominent names have contributed to the field as we know it today. Samuel D. Gross published Anatomy, Physiology and Diseases of Bones and Joints in 1830 while Joseph Pancoast wrote extensively on operations for diseases of the bones and joints in Operative Surgery 1844.
Surely, orthopedics has come a long way from where it began. Although the nature of war made it possible for orthopedics to develop as we know it today, orthopedic surgeons are widely recognized today for treating a variety of disorders which may positively change a person’s life forever.