We often get asked by patients to explain the significance of the tree that we have in our lobby. Some of you have noticed that there is a rope tied around the trunk to a straight stake. Have you ever wondered why that is? And how it is related to Orthopedics? It turns out that a bent tree braced to a stake to make it grow upward and straight has been the traditional symbol of orthopedics for hundreds of years. You will find the the tree symbol in our logo on our business cards and in our letterhead.
The word “orthopedics” comes from the words for straight (“orthos” and child (“-paideia”). It was coined by the French scientist, Nicolas Andry in his 1741 book “Orthopedie” and concerned itself with prevention and correction of deformities of the spine and bones of children. He used the image of the sapling strapped to a stake to illustrate his ideas.
Those who work in the cast room will tell you the value of splinting to hold a fractured bone straight to prevent deformity. From time to time you may see x-rays that show plates or rods surgically placed on the bone by orthopedists to hold them straight.
Spine care and Pediatrics have now become specialties unto themselves and Orthopaedics has evolved to include total joint replacements, ligament and tendon repairs, and hand surgery as well as surgery to hold fractured bones straight. Still we look to our roots (!) in trying to keep things straight when we look at the orthopedic tree in our lobby or in our logo.