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Wednesday, January 11th 2012

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

God bless the British Medical Journal. Every Christmas they publish original research of humorous endeavor. Last year a couple of orthope(a)dic registrars and a consultant took a look at the stereotype that orthope(a)dic surgeons are meat heads; stronger than their physician counterparts and dumber as well. Here is the study, available in full.

Subramania, P., S. Kantharuban, V. Subramanian, SAG Willis-Owen, and CA Willis-Owen. “Orthopaedic Surgeons: As Strong as an Ox and Almost Twice as Clever? Multicentre Prospective Comparative Study.” British Medical Journal 343 (2011).

Via Dr. Au

The study was a prospective non-randomized sampling which looked at 36 male orthopedic surgeons and 40 male anesthesiologists at three hospitals in the United Kingdom. It compared intelligence and dominant hand grip strength between the two groups.

Intelligence was measured using the iPhone app Mensa Brain Test, which poses questions taken from some actual Mensa, self administered, qualifying exam grading participants with a standard intelligence quotient.

Strength was measured using a dynamometer in the dominant hand.


  • No surprise, the orthopedic surgeons were on the mean stronger than their matched anesthesiologists. The orthopedists generated 47.25 kg of force on mean in their dominant hand versus 43.83 kg for the anesthesiologists
  • The orthopedic surgeons also had a higher mean intelligence score as graded by the iPhone app, 105.19 versus 98.38 for the anesthesiologists.

While not a rigorous study, it is certainly cute. I think the authors sum up their conclusions better than I could:

The stereotypical image of male orthopaedic surgeons as strong but stupid is unjustified in comparison with their male anaesthetist counterparts. The comedic repertoire of the average anaesthetist needs to be revised in the light of these data. However, we would recommend caution in making fun of orthopaedic surgeons, as unwary anaesthetists may find themselves on the receiving end of a sharp and quick witted retort from their intellectually sharper friends or may be greeted with a crushing handshake at their next encounter.