Physician Who Brought Arthroscopy to North America Dies at 78

Robert W. Jackson, MD, a pioneer of arthroscopy in North America, died Jan. 6. He was 78 years old.

Jackson was widely credited with bringing the practice of arthroscopy to North America from Japan, where he traveled with the Canadian Olympic team in 1964. It was there he met Masaki Watanabe, MD, and learned of the 30-year-old process that had previously been used to investigate arthritis in the elderly.

Upon returning to his birthplace of Toronto, Canada, Jackson practiced the technique he learned from Masaki and soon became the world’s foremost expert on arthroscopy. He served as chief of orthopaedics at Toronto Western Hospital from 1976 to 1985, was a full professor in the department of surgery at the University of Toronto in 1982 and served as chief of staff and chief of surgery at the Orthopaedic and Arthritic Hospital in Toronto.

Jackson was also a founding member and the first vice president of the International Arthroscopy Association.

Jackson’s contributions to sports medicine earned him a spot in Sports Illustrated as one of the 40 individuals who had the most significant impact on sports in the previous half-century. The introduction and development of arthroscopic surgery is credited with saving or extending countless athletic careers.

Jackson’s contributions to the sports world did not stop in the operating room: He was a founding member of the Canadian Paralympic movement, spearheading the Canadian Wheelchair Sport Association and setting the table for the first Paralympic Team Canada to make its debut at the 1968 Paralympic Games in Tel Aviv.

He also organized Canada’s first Paralympic Games, the 1976 Olympiad for the Physically Disabled. As a direct result, the Canadian Federation of Sport Organizations for the Disabled was created and later became the Canadian Paralympic Committee.

“Dr. Jackson was one of the founding fathers of the Canadian Paralympic Movement, and we are very saddened to hear of his death,” Carla Qualtrough, president of the Canadian Paralympic Committee, stated in a release.

In 1992, Jackson moved to Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, where he became the chief of the department of orthopedic surgery. He served as team doctor for the National Basketball Association’s Dallas Mavericks from 1992 to 1995 and retired from his position at Baylor in 2004. He served as the medical director of orthopedic research at Baylor until his retirement from surgical practice in 2007. — Robert Press

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