Female Representation in Orthopaedic Surgery and Primary Care Sports Medicine Subspecialties: Where We Were, Where We Are, and Where We Are Going


  • Jayden Glover Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Mahala Walker University of Kentucky College of Medicine
  • Japsimran Kaur University of Rochester School of Medicine
  • Megan Roche, MD Stanford University
  • Abby McIntyre Stanford University
  • Emily Kraus, MD Stanford University




Sports medicine, Orthopedic respresentation, Females in sports medicine


Since the United States’ first woman began medical school less than two centuries ago, medicine has become increasingly gender diverse. Women now make up the current majority of medical students and are predominant in fields such as pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, child and adolescent psychiatry and neonatal-perinatal medicine. Despite this progress, representation of women in many medical subspecialties, such as orthopaedic surgery sports medicine and primary care sports medicine is still consistent with historic origins of gender inequality. In 2018, women made up only 5.3% of orthopaedic surgeons and 12.1% of orthopaedic surgery sports medicine residents and fellows. Similarly, data from 2019 suggest 27.2% of family medicine sports medicine physicians are women. Female representation in positions of leadership within these subspecialties highlight further inequalities. Through current initiatives to provide early exposure and mentorship to prospective residency applicants, there have been small advances in diversifying these fields. However, these advances have been largely inadequate for women of minority and marginalized groups. Adequate female representation is paramount to gain the benefits field diversification presents, including accessible representation, provider advocacy, prioritization of women’s health, mentorship, and diverse thought and innovation. By simultaneously analyzing the historic barriers facing women in operative and nonoperative fields of sports medicine, and the benefits of gender diversity for patient care, we can recommend actions necessary in promoting gender diversity moving forward.


Bickel J, Wara D, Atkinson BF, et al. Increasing women’s leadership in academic medicine: report of the AAMC Project Implementation Committee. Acad Med J Assoc Am Med Coll. 2002;77(10):1043-1061. doi:10.1097/00001888-200210000-00023

Xu RF, Varady NH, Chen AF. Trends in Gender Disparities in Authorship of Arthroplasty Research. JBJS. 2020;102(23):e131. doi:10.2106/JBJS.20.00258

Ruzycki SM, Fletcher S, Earp M, Bharwani A, Lithgow KC. Trends in the Proportion of Female Speakers at Medical Conferences in the United States and in Canada, 2007 to 2017. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(4):e192103. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.2103

Boyle P. Nation’s physician workforce evolves: more women, a bit older, and toward different specialties. Published online February 2, 2021. https://www.aamc.org/news-insights/nation-s-physician-workforce-evolves-more-women-bit-older-and-toward-different-specialties

Day MA, Owens JM, Caldwell LS. Breaking Barriers: A Brief Overview of Diversity in Orthopedic Surgery. Iowa Orthop J. 2019;39(1):1-5.

ACGME Residents and Fellows by Sex and Specialty, 2017. AAMC. Accessed July 18, 2021. https://www.aamc.org/data-reports/workforce/interactive-data/acgme-residents-and-fellows-sex-and-specialty-2017

Physician Specialty Data Report, Active Physicians by Sex and Specialty, 2019.; 2019. https://www.aamc.org/data-reports/workforce/interactive-data/active-physicians-sex-and-specialty-2019

Brown MA, Erdman MK, Munger AM, Miller AN. Despite Growing Number of Women Surgeons, Authorship Gender Disparity in Orthopaedic Literature Persists Over 30 Years. Clin Orthop. 2020;478(7):1542-1552. doi:10.1097/CORR.0000000000000849

Bekker S, Ahmed OH, Bakare U, et al. We need to talk about manels: the problem of implicit gender bias in sport and exercise medicine. Br J Sports Med. 2018;52(20):1287-1289. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2018-099084

O’Reilly OC, Day MA, Cates WT, Baron J, Westermann RW. The Gender Divide: Are Female Team Physicians Adequately Represented in Professional and Collegiate Athletics? Orthop J Sports Med. 2019;7(7 suppl5):2325967119S00402. doi:10.1177/2325967119S00402

Howard B. Women physicians over the centuries. Yale Sch Med. Published online 2018. https://medicine.yale.edu/news/yale-medicine-magazine/women-physicians-over-the-centuries/

Weiner S. Celebrating 10 women medical pioneers. AAMC. Published online March 3, 2020. https://www.aamc.org/news-insights/celebrating-10-women-medical-pioneers

Physician Specialty Data Report, ACGME Residents and Fellows by Sex and Specialty, 2017.; 2017. https://olympics.com/ioc/news/tokyo-2020-first-ever-gender-balanced-olympic-games-in-history-record-number-of-female-competitors-at-paralympic-games

The Evolution of Orthopedic Sports Medicine. Published online August 23, 2018. https://orthopedicassociates.org/the-evolution-of-orthopedic-sports-medicine/

AAOS Presidents 1932-2021. https://www7.aaos.org/about/board/pastpresidents.aspx?_ga=2.240436739.1864270542.1628435768-1384531735.1628053632

AOSSM Presidents. https://www.sportsmed.org/aossmimis/Members/About/Past_Presidents.aspx#

AMSSM Past Presidents. https://www.amssm.org/Past-Presidents.php

Dynako J, Ownes G, Loder R, et al. Bibliometric and authorship trends over a 30 year publication history in two representative US sports medicine Journals. Heliyon. Published online 2020. doi:10.1016/j.heliyon.2020.e03698

Hiller KP, Boulos A, Tran MM, Cruz AIJ. What Are the Rates and Trends of Women Authors in Three High-impact Orthopaedic Journals from 2006-2017? Clin Orthop. 2020;478(7):1553-1560. doi:10.1097/CORR.0000000000001043

Kim CY, Sivasundaram L, Trivedi NN, et al. A 46-year Analysis of Gender Trends in Academic Authorship in Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2019;27(13):493-501. doi:10.5435/JAAOS-D-18-00669

Knobloch-Westerwick S, Glynn C, Huge M. The Matilda Effect in Science Communication: An Experiment on Gender Bias in Publication Quality Perceptions and Collaboration InterestKn. Sci Commun. 2013;35(5):603-625.

O’Reilly OC, Day MA, Cates WT, Baron JE, Glass NA, Westermann RW. Female Team Physician Representation in Professional and Collegiate Athletics. Am J Sports Med. 2020;48(3):739-743. doi:10.1177/0363546519897039

Nolan B. Female Sports Medicine Physician Is an Orthopaedic Leader and Pioneer in Her Field. Published online July 1, 2018. https://www.aaos.org/AAOSNow/2018/Jul/YourAAOS/youraaos12/

Pana A, McShane J. Gender Influences on Career Opportunities, Practice Choices, and Job Satisfaction in a Cohort of Physicians with Certification in Sports Medicine. Clin J Sports Med. 2001;11(2):96-102. doi:10.1097/00042752-200104000-00006

O’Connor MI. Medical School Experiences Shape Women Students’ Interest in Orthopaedic Surgery. Clin Orthop. 2016;474(9):1967-1972. doi:10.1007/s11999-016-4830-3

Rohde R, Wolf J, Adams J. Where Are the Women in Orthopaedic Surgery? Clin Orthop. 2016;474(9):1950-1956. doi:10.1007/s11999-016-4827-y

Baldwin K, Namdari S, Bowers A, Keenan MA, Levin S, Ahn J. Factors Affecting Interest in Orthopedics Among Female Medical Students: A Prospective Analysis. Orthopedics. 2011;34(12):919-932. doi:10.3928/01477447-20111021-17

Kovalchik S. Men’s records and women’s: are the women better already?: Moving towards a gender-neutral Olympics. Significance. 2012;9(2):18-23. doi:10.1111/j.1740-9713.2012.00554.x

Tokyo 2020 first ever gender-balanced Olympic Games in History, record number of female competitors at Paralympic Games. Int Olymp Comm. Published online March 8, 2021. https://olympics.com/ioc/news/tokyo-2020-first-ever-gender-balanced-olympic-games-in-history-record-number-of-female-competitors-at-paralympic-games

Vajapey S, Cannada LK, Samora JB. What Proportion of Women Who Received Funding to Attend a Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society Meeting Pursued a Career in Orthopaedics? Clin Orthop. 2019;477(7):1722-1726. doi:10.1097/CORR.0000000000000720

Lattanza LL, Meszaros-Dearolf L, O’Connor MI, et al. The Perry Initiative’s Medical Student Outreach Program Recruits Women Into Orthopaedic Residency. Clin Orthop. 2016;474(9):1962-1966. doi:10.1007/s11999-016-4908-y

The Perry Initiative: Inspiring Women to Be Leaders in Orthopaedic Surgery and Engineering. Accessed July 18, 2021. https://perryinitiative.org/

About Nth. Nth Dimensions. Accessed July 18, 2021. http://www.nthdimensions.org/about-nthdimensions

Mason BS, Ross W, Chambers MC, Grant R, Parks M. Pipeline program recruits and retains women and underrepresented minorities in procedure based specialties: A brief report. Am J Surg. 2017;213(4):662-665. doi:10.1016/j.amjsurg.2016.11.022

RJOS 2020-2021 Strategic Plan. Accessed July 18, 2021. http://www.rjos.org/index.php/about/rjos-strategic-plan

J. Robert Gladden Orthopaedic Society A Multicultural Organization. https://www.gladdensociety.org/mission

Earp BE, Rozental TD. Expanding the Orthopaedic Pipeline: The B.O.N.E.S. Initiative. J Surg Educ. 2020;77(3):704-709. doi:10.1016/j.jsurg.2019.11.006

Wilkinson JE, Hoffman M, Pierce E, Wiecha J. FaMeS: an innovative pipeline program to foster student interest in family medicine. Fam Med. 2010;42(1):28-34.

Bernstein J, Dicaprio MR, Mehta S. The relationship between required medical school instruction in musculoskeletal medicine and application rates to orthopaedic surgery residency programs. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2004;86(10):2335-2338. doi:10.2106/00004623-200410000-00031

Jurenovich KM, Cannada LK. Women in Orthopedics and their Fellowship Choice: What Influenced their Specialty Choice? Iowa Orthop J. 2020;40(1):13-17.

Diehl JJ, Pirozzolo JJ, Best TM. The practice of primary care sports medicine in the USA. Br J Sports Med. 2008;42(10):806-808. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2007.044487

Kong SM, Carroll KM, Lundberg DJ, Omura P, Lepe BA. Reducing gender bias in STEM. MIT Science Policy Review. Published August 8, 2020. Accessed July 18, 2021. https://sciencepolicyreview.org/2020/08/reducing-gender-bias-in-stem/

Thorborg K, Krohn L, Bandholm T, et al. ‘More Walk and Less Talk’: Changing gender bias in sports medicine. Br J Sports Med. 2020;54(23):1380-1381. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2020-102966

Graduate Medical Education Directory Including Programs Accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. American Medical Association; 2010. https://www.acgme.org/Portals/0/PDFs/2010-11.pdf

Cox R, Morgan ZJ, Nithyanandam S, Puffer JC, Peterson LE. Practice Patterns of Family Physicians With and Without Sports Medicine Certification. Clin J Sport Med. 2020;30(3). https://journals.lww.com/cjsportsmed/Fulltext/2020/05000/Practice_Patterns_of_Family_Physicians_With_and.3.aspx

Wiese-Bjornstal DM, Franklin AN, Dooley TN, Foster MA, Winges JB. Observations About Sports Injury Surveillance and Sports Medicine Psychology among Female Athletes. Women Sport Phys Act J. 2015;23(2):64-73. doi:10.1123/wspaj.2014-0042

Hayes MK, Brown S, Mulcahey MK. Women’s Sports Medicine Programs in the United States: an interdisciplinary approach to the care of girls and women. Phys Sportsmed. 2020;48(1):81-85. doi:10.1080/00913847.2019.1632157

Carter CW, Ireland ML, Johnson AE, et al. Sex-based Differences in Common Sports Injuries. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2018;26(13):447-454. doi:10.5435/JAAOS-D-16-00607

Chung JS, Merkel D, Carter CW, Kraus E, Rizzone K. GENDER PREFERENCES OF YOUTH ATHLETES FOR THEIR SPORTS MEDICINE PROVIDERS: A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW. Orthop J Sports Med. 2021;9(7 suppl3):2325967121S00108. doi:10.1177/2325967121S00108

Holschen J, Singal B. College Athletes’ Preference of Physician Gender. Clin J Sport Med. 2006;16(5):440-441. doi:10.1097/01.jsm.0000244600.23472.88

Dineen HA, Patterson JMM, Eskildsen SM, et al. Gender Preferences of Patients When Selecting Orthopaedic Providers. Iowa Orthop J. 2019;39(1):203-210.







How to Cite

Female Representation in Orthopaedic Surgery and Primary Care Sports Medicine Subspecialties: Where We Were, Where We Are, and Where We Are Going. (2022). Journal of Women’s Sports Medicine, 2(3), 127-135. https://doi.org/10.53646/jwsm.v2i2.30

Similar Articles

1-10 of 32

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.

Most read articles by the same author(s)

1 2 3 4 > >>