Orthopaedic surgeons: as strong as an ox and almost twice as clever? Multicentre prospective comparative study

Orthopaedic surgeons: out of the closet and off to those consults

29 December 2011

Thanks to Subramanian et al(1) for their scholarly work examining the important clinical issue of grip strength comparison between orthopaedic surgeons and anaesthetists ... oh, and IQ.

Orthopaedic surgeons, of course, are renowned as champions of academic medicine. No subject is safe from their forensic eye – even one as remote from patient care as the evidence base for theatre banter.

I welcome this article. It confirms a personal suspicion – until now anecdotal – that there is a towering intellectual strenuously hidden behind the rugby oaf facade which (some) orthopaedic trainees so clumsily ape.

In fact a senior orthopaedic registrar has confirmed this to me. “I love it that other doctors think that I’m dumb”, he confided, “because I can exploit that... For example, if I need a Urology consult, I just say the word ‘prostrate’ twice, and they stop asking me stupid questions and come to ‘rescue’ the patient...”.(2)

As the authors note, those of us lacking sufficient grip strength for orthopaedics must change our practice forthwith.

Now that our orthopaedic colleagues have come out of the closet about their IQs, we must stop doing all those consults for them - they are more than capable of handling them personally. No longer should we insult them with our ‘advice’: it has all been gratuitous, all along. On the contrary, we are the ones who should be seeking more help from them.

One unfortunate but inevitable consequence of this science, then, will be extra work for them. I am sure that respect for scientific rigour will protect the authors from personal repercussions about that workload.

Instead, I am equally sure, the ‘New Orthopod’ will embrace this chance to practise the holistic medicine which she has coveted for so long - especially as this evidence shows so clearly that it will benefit her patients.

Competing Interests
None. How could I, a mere anaesthetist, even hope to compete?

1. P. Subramanian, S Kantharuban, V. Subramanian, et al. Orthopaedic surgeons: as strong as an ox and almost twice as clever? Multicentre prospective comparative study. BMJ 2011: 343: d7506

2. Personal communication – name withheld to protect the author’s source.

Competing interests: None declared

James R Nielsen, Anaesthetist

Concord Hospital, Concord, Sydney, Australia

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