Feb. 15, 2016
Marshfield Clinic Sports Medicine will be on hand for the sixth consecutive year to keep racers safe at the American Birkebeiner, where Clinic providers have treated hundreds of skiers for everything from scratched corneas to broken bones.
This year the Clinic team, led by sports medicine physician Adam Atkins, will be on hand for arguably the most legendary cross-country ski race in the U.S. Feb. 20. The four-day event runs from Feb. 18-21.
Last year, the Clinic's team of about 20 health care professionals treated about 50 athletes, mostly for problems related to the very cold conditions, Atkins said.
"We took care of some cold-related injuries, including frozen corneas," Atkins said. "We also saw a spike in lacerations as well as treating skiers for asthma, exhaustion, and shoulder and ankle injuries."
Dehydration also was an issue for several athletes, as was low body temperatures due to staying in wet race clothing too long.
Marshfield Clinic's team includes physicians, physician assistants, nurses, physical therapists and medical assistants, all of whom are well prepared for anything the conditions throw their way.
"Last year, it was great to provide this service and the athletes we supported were very appreciative of our presence at the Birkie," Atkins said. "Everyone on our team worked so well together, jumping in where needed, not just in their specialty."
The Clinic's team knows it has to expect the unexpected. Five years ago, doctors treated about 250 people, many for frostbite, during one of the coldest races in Birkie history.
This year, more than 10,000 skiers from around the world are expected to be on hand, meaning an adequate medical team needs to be available for any health issues that arise.
For instance, Marshfield Clinic medical staff one year worked quickly to save a skier who had a heart attack near the finish line.
"You never know when an emergency will pop up, but that's why we have a large team on hand. We're ready to ensure everyone has the safest race possible," Atkins said.
Atkins, who sees patients at the Clinic's Eau Claire Center, will lead the Clinic team stationed at the Sawyer County Courthouse, a block from the finish line.
Marshfield Clinic also is a major sponsor of the Birkebeiner.
The Marshfield Clinic system provides patient care, research and education in more than 50 locations in northern, central and western Wisconsin, making it one of the largest comprehensive medical systems in the United States.