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David Lloyd MacIntosh was a knee-surgery and sports medicine pioneer.
David Lloyd MacIntosh was born on June 6, 1914 in Middle Musquodoboit, a small community near Halifax, Nova Scotia. MacIntosh was the second youngest of six children in his family, and excelled in his schooling from an early age – winning the Governor-General’s Academic Gold Medal while in high school.
MacIntosh attended Dalhousie University in Halifax, where he studied English literature and received his Bachelor of Arts in 1933. His love for literature, especially poetry, was fueled by MacIntosh’s father, a United Church minister who loved poetry and recited it to MacIntosh from a young age. After graduating from Dalhousie, MacIntosh took a job teaching, though he realized quickly that he it would not be his lifelong career. Instead, MacIntosh decided to pursue medical school at Dalhousie, first obtaining a Bachelor of Science in 1934, and earning his Doctor of Medicine in 1939, graduating as a class Gold Medalist.
It was MacIntosh’s first internship that initially brought him to Toronto to work at Toronto General Hospital. He was only briefly at Toronto General before joining the Royal Canadian Navy as a surgeon-lieutenant during the Second World War. While in the Navy, MacIntosh first worked on deep sea diving experiments with British scientist J.B.S Haldane. MacIntosh also served as a physician aboard the HMS Philante, which helped to escort freighters across the North Atlantic Ocean. Before the end of the war, MacIntosh returned to Canada and treated senior officers at a hospital in Ottawa. While in Ottawa, MacIntosh met and married Elaine Dickie. Together they had three children; Doug, Ian and Ann.
When the war ended in 1945, MacIntosh returned to Toronto to finish his internships, which led to a scholarship year in the United Kingdom involving work in several medical facilities which were specializing in the new field of orthopedics. MacIntosh became especially interested in knees and athletic injuries, leading to the opening of his own practice in Toronto in the early 1950s.
MacIntosh also accepted a post with the UofT’s Hart House clinic, which allowed him to host clinics on weekday afternoons for injured Varsity athletes and eventually led to his appointment as the team doctor for the Varsity football and hockey teams.
MacIntosh also accepted a cross-appointed position at the UofT in the early 1950s teaching interns, residents, and undergraduate students while also working as an orthopedic consultant for the Princess Margaret Hospital dealing with cancer patients, and the Christie Street and Sunnybrook hospitals for war veterans.
Working with wounded veterans and many injured athletes, MacIntosh would often have to diagnose patients with irreparable torn anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL), and began to think of ways to successfully repair the knee. In 1957, MacIntosh invented the “pivot-shift” test to determine how the knee had been injured – a test that is still the standard in medical practice today. His testing eventually led him to perform the first successful surgery for repairing a torn ACL in the early 1960s.
His interest in orthopedics was not limited to knee injuries. During the 1960s and 70s, MacIntosh also worked with damaged hips (hemiarthroplasty), ankles, shoulders, and backs, and researched and perfected various difficult surgical procedures such as high tibial osteotomy and hip replacements, and treated a wide-range of patients suffering from trauma, osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, cancer (destruction of bones), congenital deformities, neck and spine injuries, and hand, foot and ankle injuries.
In the 1970s and 80s, demand for MacIntosh’s skills and knowledge increased, and he became a consultant for various organizations such as the Workmen’s Compensation Board (WCB), Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA). He also worked on many high-profile athletes such as the downhill skiers the “Crazy Canucks”, and ballerina Veronica Tennant, who became the first person to dance after successful ACL surgery and rehabilitation. As MacIntosh’s career wound down, his focus turned to caring for aging patients suffering from arthritis and joint problems, and he was known for his long term approach and vigorous follow-up procedures with patients.
MacIntosh retired from his practice in 1984, but kept seeing patients part-time until 2002, when he turned 88 years old. MacIntosh died on January 12, 2013 at the age of 98. The David L. MacIntosh Sport Medicine Clinic, which treats sport-related injuries at the University of Toronto, was named after him in 1990.