The 125th anniversary of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery marks a unique achievement in orthopaedics, one that stems from the support of the orthopaedic community, the efforts of reviewers and editorial board members, the insights and achievements of authors of research reports, dedicated and talented staff members, and a unifying insistence on high standards across the decades.
The publication of what is now The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery began in 1889, in a volume that contained papers presented at the American Orthopaedic Association (AOA) meetings in the two prior years. The name, Transactions of the American Orthopedic Association, was changed in 1903 to the American Journal of Orthopedic Surgery. In 1919, following World War I, through which American and British orthopaedists had worked closely together, the American Journal of Orthopedic Surgery became the official journal of the British Orthopaedic Association. The word “American” was dropped, and the journal became the Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery. The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery took its current name in 1922.
The AOA had ownership of JBJS and its predecessors from the beginning. Even though the AOA continued to own JBJS, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), at its inception in 1933, named JBJS an official publication of the AAOS. In 1948, to further friendship and professional relationships with the British orthopaedic community, separate volumes of The Journal were established, resulting in JBJS-Am and JBJS-Br titles. In 1954, the AOA and AAOS relinquished ownership of The Journal, establishing JBJS, Inc., as an independent, nonprofit organization, which it remains today.
While print was a centerpiece, other educational formats have been developed in the past twenty years. JBJS followed many of these trends, making The Journal available on compact discs (CDs) in 1992 and through its web site in 1996. In 2006, every article published by JBJS or its predecessors back to 1889 was made available to readers online. Since 2010, new JBJS products have been developed to provide trusted high-quality orthopaedic information to our readers in a number of ways, including JBJS Case Connector, JBJS Essential Surgical Techniques, and JBJS Reviews, all of which are online-only journals.
It is interesting to browse through some of the older journals and compare them with those of today. The clinical conditions described in the initial 1889 volume, such as spinal deformity, clubfoot, and bone infection, continue to be a focus of research today. Despite the discovery of x-rays in 1895, there are curiously few radiographs or even diagrams based on radiographs included in articles until the 1930s. The articles were almost exclusively by one author until the 1950s, when two or three authors appeared on some articles. Today, with six or more authors commonly listed on each article, it is rare to see an article with a single author.
The articles for the initial sixty to seventy years were largely based on clinical observations, consisting of what we would now call Level-IV and V evidence. Although they might seem peculiar to readers today, these observational articles were the primary source of new orthopaedic information for those practicing without the availability of the advanced imaging studies and technology on which we currently depend. It is clear in reading some older articles that the authors were commonly aware of innovative solutions but lacked the imaging equipment, implant technology, and anesthetic advances of today. These modern tools often tempt us to put less thought into some of the principles of physical examination and observation and into obtaining a thorough medical history, which were the mainstays of orthopaedic practice in the early days of JBJS.
Even though everyone involved with The Journal has reason to be proud of this remarkable milestone of orthopaedic education, we will not rest on our past successes. Orthopaedic information, once available only through journals, textbooks, and society meetings, now is abundant from multiple sources, some more trusted than others. We are continuing to develop a variety of delivery means to best suit the ways each individual orthopaedic surgeon seeks high-quality, trusted orthopaedic information. All of this is anchored in the belief that peer review remains essential.
Perhaps the words on our JBJS 125th anniversary logo say it best—Leading Orthopaedics: Then. Now. Always. We look forward to many more years of educating all providers of musculoskeletal care.