The State Board of Workers’ Compensation requires that an employer have at least one panel physician who specializes in orthopaedic surgery. Many injured employees are puzzled at exactly what that means.

Orthopaedics is a branch of medicine that addresses the prevention or correction of injuries or disorders of the skeletal system and associated muscles, joints, and ligaments. As many work injuries involve broken bones, herniated spinal discs, and joint trauma, these physicians are essentially “bone and muscle doctors.”

Also, orthopaedists may specialize in the treatment of certain bones or joint systems. For example, some orthopaedists will exclusively focus on particular body parts such as shoulders, knees, hands, elbows, or the spine. These physicians are experts on the systemic workings of those body parts who can resolve disputed causation issues or compile future treatment or rehabilitation plans.

Orthopaedics may also develop their practice into orthopaedic surgery. While this is often in areas of sports medicine, the physicians perform the surgical repairs necessitated by common accidents as well. These surgeons will also be instrumental in developing and monitoring the patient’s coordination of physical therapy and other modalities of recovery. An orthopaedic surgeon also addresses the interplay of pathology found in the patient’s central or peripheral nervous systems that affect his or her musculoskeletal components. However, if the patient’s pathology strays too far away from the bone or muscle arena, the orthopaedic surgeon will likely consult with another specialist.