Dr. Joseph Torg, an orthopedic surgeon whose experience treating and researching football players’ spinal-cord injuries made him a strong voice in the 1970s for banning a dangerous tackling technique in high schools and colleges, died on Dec. 15 at His home was in Wayne, Pa. He was 88.
Elisabeth Torg (his daughter) confirmed his death, but didn’t cite any cause.
His sports-related activities were well-known by the middle of 1970s. A former offensive guard for Haverford College, he was the doctor for several Philadelphia teams and was often quoted on players’ injuries. His first rehab and sports medicine center in the United States was founded. at Temple University. In New Jersey, he was called to testify in the case that led Little League Baseball. to Stop the boys-only policy
He was alarmed by a spate of spinal-cord football injuries caused by spearing — a technique that involves a player lowering his head, bending his neck and launching himself into an opponent, using the top of his helmet as a battering ram.
“If these forces are greater than the elastic capabilities of the spine,” In a 1992 video, Dr. Torg is explained by Dick Vermeil (the former Philadelphia Eagles coach). “the spinal segments will buckle.”
The Associated Press reported that he had told The Associated Press about the N.C.A.A. in 1975. He also mentioned that the National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations was “derelict in their responsibility to safeguard the health and well-being of young men playing football” I urged them to Change their rules.
In that same year, he joined forces with Ted Quedenfeld, Temple’s head athletic trainer, to collect information about how many spinal cord injuries have been sustained in America due to spearing. The National Spinning Project was named. Football Register of Head and Neck Injury.
A friend said that Dr. Torg had increased the pressure on N.C.A.A. around this time.
“As I remember, he threatened the N.C.A.A. that if they didn’t institute the rule, he’d sue,” Dr. Raymond Moyer, A professor in sports medicine and orthopedic surgery at The School of Medicine at Temple said this in an interview by phone. “He didn’t back down from anyone.”
N.C.A.A. In 1976, high schools and universities banned spearing. N.F.L. followed suit in 1979, largely as a result of a paralyzing hit. In 1979, the N.F.L. also followed suit, in large part due to a paralyzing hit to The helmet worn by Darryl Stingley (a New England Patriots player), one year prior.
The registry’s initial findings, published in 1979 in The American Journal of Sports Medicine, documented 259 cervical spine fractures and dislocations among high school, college and other football players between 1971 and 1975. Ninety nine of these players were permanently quadriplegics.
The laws against spearing had an important impact. Since 1976 to In 1984, cervical spine dislocations, fractures, and partial dislocations declined. to 41 from 110 and 34 from 34, respectively. to Just five to An article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1985 by Dr. Torg with three of his colleagues.
The possibility of injury from the spinal-cord would also not disappear, but spearing could never be eliminated completely.
Marc Buoniconti was a linebacker and one of the most iconic incidents. at The Citadel in South Carolina, a military college, was made a quadriplegic after running back to East Tennessee State University. Three years later, when Buoniconti sued the Citadel’s team doctor for negligence, Dr. Torg testified for the defense, arguing that Buoniconti had speared his opponent and bore responsibility for his injury.
“What we are dealing with as far as causation is not a medical problem,” Dr. Torg said. “What we are dealing with as far as causation is a coaching technique problem.”
The jury exonerated the Citadel’s doctor.
Joseph Steven Torg was born in Philadelphia on October 25, 1934. Jay Torg was his father and an insurance agent. Elva May Torg was his mother.
He earned a bachelor’s degree at 1957, Haverford College He received his medical degree at Temple four years later.
Ms. Torg wrote in an email to indicate that her father had most likely chosen orthopedics. “because of his love of football and his own experience with athletic injury (concussion) in high school.”
“When he graduated medical school,” Sie said that “orthopedic surgery was the most sports-oriented field in medicine and the field that enabled him to treat athletes.”
Internships are a great way to get experience. at San Francisco General Hospital, now Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center was established in 1961. to 1962 – Dr. Torg served two years with the Army Medical Corps. His residencies were completed in 1962. at Temple University Hospital and Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children (now Shriners Children’s Philadelphia), he began teaching at Temple, 1968.
His name was soon well-known. He and Mr. Quedenfeld published a 1970 study which found that conventional football shoes had seven cleats, each measuring three quarters of an inch, and were more likely to cause injuries to the knees and ankles than shoes with fourteen shorter cleats.
He testified three years later in New Jersey’s challenge to Little League baseball was banned from Little League girls because of this rule. At the hearing of New Jersey Division of Civil Rights Dr. Torg disproved Claims by CreightonJ. Hale (a Little League Baseball executive) that female bones are weaker than male bone. He said that girls matured faster than boys so it is possible their bones may be stronger.
A hearing officer ruled that the rule prohibiting girls from participating in Little League in New Jersey violated state and federal anti-discrimination laws — a decision that helped lead the national Little League organization to The next year, let the girls be players.
Dr. Torg and M. Quedenfeld founded the Center for Sports Medicine and Science in 1974. at Temple to Treat college and professional athletes as well as amateurs.
Temple was left by Dr. Torg in 1978 to Join the School of Medicine at University of Pennsylvania. He established another center for sports medicine. at From 1995 to 1994, he was a professor at the university. In 1995, he joined MCP Hahnemann University School of Medicine and taught for seven years there before returning to the university. to Temple.
Among Dr. Torg’s achievements was popularizing a quick and noninvasive test that had been conceived by a mentor, Dr. John W. Lachman, to Diagnose a common knee injury to A torn anterior Cruciate Ligament in athletes
“It changed everything,” Dr. John Kelly IVProfessor in orthopedic surgery at In a phone interview, the University of Pennsylvania stated. “Many tears were being misdiagnosed as sprained knees, and people went out and got more injured.”
Between the 1970s to the 1990s Dr. Torg served as Philadelphia’s team physician for the Flyers and Eagles. He also served as the Freedoms of World Team Tennis team doctor, and was also the Atoms of North American Soccer League team doctor.
Doug CollinsIn an email, a former All-Star guard, who was drafted by the 76ers in 1973, stated that Dr. Torg often treated him. “He tried to put me back together thru many foot & knee injuries. He knew how badly I wanted to play & on many occasions tried to protect me from myself.”
Additional to His daughter Dr. Torg, his wife Barbara Groenendaal Torg, and his sons are his heirs. Joseph Jay, Jr., and seven grandsons.
1991 Dr. Torg created a grading system to determine the severity of a concussion — one of the most vexing problems in football, as well as in soccer, hockey and other sports.
Dr. Joseph Maroon, consultant neurosurgeon to A professor of neurosurgery and the Pittsburgh Steelers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said that Dr. Torg’s system was the inspiration for the neurocognitive testing that he helped create to assess the severity of a concussion and an athlete’s ability to Return to play. Testing is the current standard of care at the N.F.L.
“We really followed up on Joe’s work and computerized it,” Dr. Maroon spoke. “He was avant-garde and scholarly.”