Marshfield Clinic Partners With American Birkebeiner to Keep Racers Safe
For the City-Times
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 Siverling.
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 line.
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.