Allen F. Anderson, MD
Orthopaedic Surgeon, Tennessee Orthopaedic Alliance
Dr. Allen F. Anderson passed away on his farm, Sunday, November 12, 2017. Born on November 16, 1949, he was 67 years old. This month, we honor his life and contributions to AJSM as a member of the Editorial Board and Associate Editor.
Dr. Anderson was a graduate of University of Tennessee College of Medicine, and he completed a residency in orthopedics at Vanderbilt University and was board certified by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery in general orthopedics with a certificate of added qualification for Sports Medicine. He was a specialist in sports medicine with a keen interest in knee injury and ligament reconstruction; he published over 100 scientific manuscripts in peer review journals and 26 book chapters. He had 21 scientific exhibits at national and international meetings, numerous national and international presentations, and 75 instructional course lectures. He received a patent for invention of a pediatric ACL reconstruction system. He received numerous awards and was recognized as: America’s Top Physicians 2004-2012 from Consumer’s Research Council, Elected to Best Doctors in America by peers 2007-2008, Nashville Business Journal Top Doctor 2016-2017.
He served in the leadership of many societies including: being the Associate Editor of the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine and the American Journal of Sports Medicine, serving as President of the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) and the Board of Directors of several other related societies.
Dr. Anderson’s greatest joy was Jesus and spending time with his beloved wife, Candy, and three sons, Brian, David and Chris. He leaves behind 5 grandchildren: Evie, Ben, Eleanor, Caroline, and Francis Allen (born November 16, 2017). He also leaves 2 daughters-in-law, Jeanna and Laura, 2 sisters, Holly Wilds and Noel Anderson, and one brother, Gary Anderson, plus many nieces, nephews, and cousins, and countless friends—who will all miss him greatly. Until we meet again.
Read Dr. Anderson’s personal statement below, extracted from the AOSSM Presidential Address in July 2016, an important part of his legacy:
Personally, I have been blessed in so many ways. Not the least of which was the
circumstances of life that resulted in a career in sports medicine and my presence
at this podium. Given my history, I am fortunate to just be a member of this great
society consisting of so many dedicated and gifted surgeons, much less serve in a
When I was an adolescent, I was a poor student due to a learning disability
called dysstudia, a neurocognitive disorder caused by lack of studying. I
compensated for this profound disability by being temperamental—half temper
and half mental. I vividly remember several adults telling me that I was going to
be something when I grew up. Being young and naïve, naturally I thought they
meant something good. It wasn’t until years later that I realized they thought I
would be living in the Big House, wearing an orange jumpsuit and flip-flops.
I was saved from this ignominious prophecy by great parents. I had a loving
mother, who died when I was young, and a father who I idolized. He told me,
when I was a child that he would give his life for me, and I knew in my heart it was
true. I would have done the same for him without hesitation. I was so proud that
he was my father. I loved him more than life. He was one of the greats of the
greatest generation. He not only loved me, but he also taught me what it was to
be a man and a father. He believed that the greatest attribute was character, a
quality that is ultimately defined by our actions. The foundation of his character
was built on the core values of integrity, loyalty, duty, and faith. He genuinely
embraced these ideals and made them his core values, because they resonated
with his innate sense of goodness.
He believed that we are all created equal. That innate talent determines
what you are capable of achieving, but there is no substitute for hard work, for
you cannot live up to your potential without it. Always do your best, the freely
chosen pursuit of excellence is the practical ideal, and one day you will give an
account for how you managed the talents you were given. Perseverance is a
quality that is essential to success, because it overcomes most deficiencies. Any
form of honest work nurtures personal dignity, self-reliance provides
independence, and the concept of personal responsibility will nourish the
freedom and desire to accomplish your dreams.
My dad used to tell his friends that I was a good boy. Every time I heard
that it gave me an even greater desire to live up to the compliment and to make
him proud of my accomplishments.
I focused all my efforts on sports because it was fun and I was better than
most of my peers. Unfortunately, I peeked too early. By the sixth grade, I was no
longer the biggest, fastest, and toughest player on the team. I worked hard,
persevered, and went to University of Tennessee as a 185-pound outside
linebacker. I made up for my lack of size by being really slow. In those days, UT
was known as Linebacker U, with players like Hacksaw Reynolds. He got that
nickname after he used a hacksaw to cut his own Jeep in half after we lost to Ole
Miss. He was a very scary guy.
Freshmen could not play on the varsity in those days, so the freshman team
played other schools. To my chagrin, for the first time in my life, I was relegated
to the second team. I had difficulty understanding that because I was the best
dummy holder on the team. Eventually, the guy that played first team got hurt
and I started against Georgia Tech. I made 24 tackles and played one of the best
games of my life. The head coach, Doug Dickey, called me to his office the next
day, shook my hand and said “Good game, Little Man”.
When he called me “Little Man”, I immediately realized I would never play
first team again. This led to a fundamental change in my worldview. I had to do
something else to make my father proud. So, out of desperation, I studied one
semester to see if I could make good grades. To my utter astonishment, I made a
4.0 while taking the most difficult courses that were offered to athletes at UT,
such as, school shop safety, basket weaving, and weight lifting. I was amazed by
what could be accomplished by taking books home, reading assignments, and
studying. I had an uncle who, as a general surgeon, was revered in our family.
Although it seemed highly improbable given my academic history, I decided that
after this initial success, I would go to medical school. I was encouraged by my
father’s belief that if I worked hard and persevered, I could accomplish any goal.
In the crucible of medical school and training, I developed a profound
ambition to be successful and to obtain all that life had to offer. I was driven to
sacrifice the present for the future, to build the foundation of my life on a career
that would make my dad proud. I realized that success is measured in many ways
and on many levels. Consequently, I thought it was important to identify what
success meant to me, personally, so that when I succeeded I would know it. I
defined success with worldly measures, including a loving family, a busy practice,
and a big house in the best neighborhood, membership of the most prestigious
country club, an expensive car, and wealth.
By the time I was 45 years old, I had achieved all of my personal criteria of
success. But the goals I had striven so hard for did not provide the satisfaction
that I was ultimately seeking. Then, I suffered a loss of extraordinary magnitude
when my father died. At that time, my heart was completely empty; the best
description of how I felt is hollow. There was no joy, satisfaction, or fulfillment in
the success of my career or in life. When I walked through this tragedy, it revealed
that I had foolishly built my life on a foundation as unstable as sand.
I learned that building my own foundation would never be fully satisfying or
give me the purpose I longed for; never free me up for the authenticity I desired;
it led to a life of fear of failure and pride in reputation that some could always call
into question, of trying to construct a vocation that finally gave the validation I so
longed for, yet it could not withstand the vicissitudes of life. I felt just like Harold
Abrams, a runner in the movie “Chariots of Fire”, who stated ‘I have never known
contentment. I am forever in pursuit, and I do not even know what I am chasing. I
was chasing the wrong thing, and I was never going to find it, ever.’
When I was doing 400 cases per year, I thought I would be satisfied doing
500 cases, when I reached that milestone, I thought I would be content with 600
cases. The same was true for presentations, publications, and money. There was
no satisfaction in accomplishing any of these goals. It was a never-ending pursuit
of satisfaction in the wrong place. There would never be enough.
My Heavenly Father came to my rescue when I was powerless to build a
foundation that would sustain me. When I subsequently built the foundation of
my life on the Rock 20 years ago, my perspective completely changed. I felt like
Eric Little, Harold Abrams’ counterpart in “Chariots of Fire”. He stated, ‘I believe
God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. When I run, I feel His
pleasure.’ He was running from an overflow of the heart, not to win. Like Eric
Little, I feel God’s pleasure when using the talents I was given to fulfill my sacred
responsibility to sow the seeds of hope and healing in the lives of others. This
change in perspective satiated my eternal thirst and filled my empty heart long
ago. It led to me to develop a “servant’s heart”, to love people rather than using
them to achieve worldly measures of success.
There is nothing wrong with working hard and desiring to do well.
Ultimately, the outcome of that effort will not provide the satisfaction that we all
yearn for. I stand sure in the solace provided by the most important thing that I
have learned. My purpose in life is not to make my earthly father proud or
achieve personal, worldly success, but to glorify my Heavenly Father, the Author
of Life, who provides the ultimate satisfaction of my soul.
Selected Published Work
Anderson AF, Anderson CN. Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction in Skeletally Immature Patients. The Anterior Cruciate Ligament: Reconstruction and Basic Science. Eds. Prodromos, et al. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2008. 457-69.
Anderson AF, Anderson CN. ACL Injury with Bony Avulsion. Advanced Reconstruction: Knee. Eds. Lieberman, et al. Rosemont, IL: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 2011. 603-11.
Anderson AF, Anderson CN. Reconstructing the Anterior Cruciate Ligament in Pediatric Patients. Insall and Scott: Surgery of the Knee. Eds. Scott, et al. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier, 2012. 855-64.
Anderson AF, Anderson CN. Technique: Anderson Technique. Knee Surgery for the Pediatric and Adolescent Athlete. Eds. Cordasco F and Green D. Wolters Kluwer. 2015. 46-52.
Shea KG, Martinson WD, Cannamela PC, Richmond CG, Fabricant PD, Anderson AF, Polousky JD, Ganley TJ. Variation in the Medial Patellofemoral Ligament Origin in the Skeletally Immature Knee. Am J Sports Med. 2017. E-published ahead of print.
Anderson AF, Anderson CN. ACL Reconstruction in the Skeletally Immature: Transphyseal, All-Epiphyseal, Over-the-Top. Master Techniques in Orthopaedic Surgery Reconstructive Knee Surgery. Wolters Kluwer. 2017. 182-196.