Ice-scratched corneas, frostbite, a heart attack and an occasional broken
bone are just a few of the things Marshfield Clinic medical professionals have
treated during past American Birkebeiner races.
This year, the Clinic team, led by sports medicine physician Adam Atkins,
will again partner with arguably the most legendary cross-country ski race in
the U.S. Feb. 22 to ensure the thousands of racers stay healthy.
“The Birkie in Hayward is one of the greatest winter sports events, without
a doubt,” said Atkins, who has participated in endurance races as a triathlete.
“We want to ensure that everyone stays safe during what always has the
potential to be a very long and cold race. From bruises to frostbite, we’ll be
ready for anything.”
The Clinic team, which has provided health care for the race for the past
four years, knows it has to expect the unexpected. Three years ago, doctors
treated about 250 people, many for frostbite, during one of the coldest races
in Birkie history, according to Clinic Administrator Tom Schwab, who
coordinates the Clinic’s race staff with Rice Lake Center Manager Barb
Last year, the medical team had a relatively quiet year, treating about a
dozen racers for minor issues such as cuts, sprains and cramps. This year, race
organizers estimate that more than 10,000 skiers from around the world will be
on hand, meaning an adequate medical team needs to be available for any health
issues that arise.
For instance, Marshfield Clinic medical staff 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. From past experience, we know that anything can happen
without warning, which is why we are ready to ensure everyone has the safest
race possible,” Schwab said.
Atkins, who sees patients at the Clinic’s Eau Claire Center, will lead a
Clinic team of 30 health care providers and professional staff at the race.
That team is stationed at the Sawyer County Courthouse, a block from the finish
Providers include physicians, nurse practitioners, physical therapists,
nurses and medical assistants from Marshfield Clinic locations in the region.
Paramedics from Lakeview Medical Center in Rice Lake also participate.
Marshfield Clinic also is a major sponsor of the Birkebeiner.
Follow @MfldClinic or search #birkie on Twitter for news, health tips,
photos and more leading up to and during the race. Like Marshfield Clinic on Facebook to see event photos and more.
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.