Background Little is known about the scientific publication output for individual countries and medical specialties. The contribution of French authors to the currently expanding volume of publications on orthopaedics and traumatology (OT) is unclear. Orthopaedics & Traumatology: Surgery & Research (OTSR) is an English-language version of a preexisting French journal that was launched in 2009 to increase the dissemination of research done in France. The objective of this study was to use Web of Science (WoS) data from 1998 to 2017 to determine (i) the contribution of OT publications to the total worldwide volume of scientific publications, (ii) the contribution of OT publications from France to the total worldwide volume of OT publications, and (iii) changes over time in the proportion of OT publications from France with special attention to potential effects of the creation of OTSR. Hypothesis The proportion of OT publications from France increased after 2010–2012, indicating a positive effect of OTSR. Material and methods WoS data were used to identify original studies and review articles written by at least one French author, published between 1998 and 2017, and dealing with OT (defined as orthopaedics and/or traumatology in adult and/or paediatric patients). The worldwide volumes of publications in OT and other specialties were compared. Within worldwide OT publications, the proportion from France was determined. Indicators of impact were evaluated during successive 5-year periods. Finally, the position of OT in worldwide research was assessed and OT journals were analysed. Results Among worldwide scientific medical publications, the proportion dealing with OT increased year on year from 1.93% in 1998 to 2.65% in 2017. Among annual publications from France, the proportion dealing with OT rose similarly, from 1.32% to 2.40%. Over the 20-year study period, France moved from the sixth to the ninth position, chiefly due to a large increase in publications from Asia. However, France remained in third position among European countries and increased its OT production 3-fold between 1998 and 2017. The proportion of OT articles from France that ranked among the top 1% most cited articles increased by 65% from 2008–2012 (20 articles) to 2013–2017 (33 articles), and the proportion in the top 10% increased by 31.8% (211 in 2008–2012 and 278 in 2013–2017). This rate of progression was faster than in any of the other western countries. Between 1998–2011 and 2012–2017, the contribution of French OT to publication output showed a 1.56-fold greater increase than did the contribution of OT to the worldwide volume of scientific medical publications. Discussion OT publications from France have kept pace with the steady increase seen worldwide over the last 20 years. Although the US and UK remain in the lead, and despite the considerable growth in the output of Asian countries, France occupies a prominent position on the international OT scene. The creation of OTSR has elevated the international profile of French OT centres. Level of evidence IV, retrospective study with no control group.