VAIL – Dr. J. Richard Steadman may have done more to help athletic careers than anyone in history, but the founder of the Steadman Clinic and The Steadman Philippon Research Institute has had enough.
He’s retiring from active surgical practice.
“I cannot imagine a more fulfilling career than the one I have had as an orthopedic physician,” Steadman said. “I’m lucky to have had so many patients determined to win again in their sports after serious knee injuries. Their will to succeed has played a large part in my success in treating them. Now I look forward to taking part in further research projects with SPRI scientists.”
Steadman will still consult with his colleagues at The Steadman Clinic. He will also continue as co-chairman of the institute, the charitable arm that researches the causes, prevention and treatment of orthopedic disorders.
“Dr. Steadman is a great friend and an inspiration for all orthopedic surgeons,” said Dr. Marc J. Philippon, managing partner of The Steadman Clinic. “He has been an outstanding pioneer in the world of sports medicine for years. His innovations have influenced the field and benefited countless patients. He had exceptional surgical skills, but he is much more than a surgeon. He is an amazingly caring physician. He is retiring from his surgical practice, but his innovative contributions will continue forever.”
Steadman founded the nonprofit Steadman Sports Medicine Research Foundation in 1988 at South Lake Tahoe, Calif., where he began his orthopedic practice. The organization is now the Steadman Philippon Research Institute.
Early in his career at South Lake Tahoe, Steadman pioneered improvements in post-surgical rehabilitation, designed to shorten the healing process.
An Amazing Journey
Born in Sherman, Texas, Steadman graduated from Texas A&M University. As a freshman and sophomore he played football for legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.
He earned his medical degree in 1963 from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, and served his internship at Charity Hospital of New Orleans.
He was drafted into the U.S. Army and spent 1964-66 in Germany, returning to Charity Hospital where he completed his four-year residency.
He began his orthopedic career in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. in 1970. His reputation spread when he successfully treated U.S. Ski Team members and other professional athletes.
The Steadman Legacy
Steadman performed his first operation at the Vail Valley Medical Center in the summer of 1990.
“That day marked the beginning of 24 years of consistent and continuous success for The Steadman Clinic and for VVMC. The face of VVMC changed forever,” said Doris Kirchner, president and CEO of Vail Valley Medical Center.
Steadman has treated more than 12,000 patients since relocating to Vail, including many elite athletes from various sports. Among them are some of the world’s best-known athletes and public figures.
Cindy Nelson was the first elite athlete Steadman treated. Nelson won the bronze medal in the women’s downhill at the 1976 Olympic Winter Games.
“Dr. Steadman is the single greatest influence on my life, and I share each of my successes with him,” Nelson said. “Not only did he influence my competitive skiing career, helping me come back better and stronger after each of my injuries, he also helped me as a person. He inspired me with his humble character, his integrity, his incredibly innovative mind and his insatiable desire to help. My story is the same of many patients, athletes, doctors and skiing champions worldwide.”
Steadman has been a consultant to the NFL’s Denver Broncos and MLB’s Colorado Rockies. He served as U.S. alpine chief physician at nine consecutive Winter Olympic Games from 1976-2006.
The attention for treating elite athletes is gratifying, but they made it their mission to help everyday people stay active longer.
“Helping people return to their normal lives and healthy physical activity has been just as rewarding as getting an Olympic skier back on the slopes or an NFL player back on the field,” Steadman said.
“Not only did he influence my competitive skiing career, helping me come back better and stronger after each of my injuries, he also helped me as a person.”