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An Interview with Brian Krabak, MD

Photo of Brian Krabak, MD

As an internationally experienced sports medicine physician and athlete, Brian Krabak, MD has been a physician for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, the 2002 Salt Lake and 2004 Athens Olympic Games, USA Swimming, Professional Baseball and is current Medical Director for Racing The Planet's 4 Deserts Ultra-Marathons. He combines his passion for adventure sports and experience as a competitive athlete in taking care of athletes of all levels of competition.

What was it like being a physician at the Olympic Games?

In a word: Amazing. As a competitive athlete, it has always been a dream of mine to make it to the Olympics. And though I didn’t make it as a competitor, I was honored as a sports physician to be part of such an international sporting event. I was impressed by the dedication and focus of these athletes as they tried to balance the pressures of competition, managing their injuries and representing their country. As a physician for these athletes, it was a privilege in knowing that the care I provided could help that athlete return to competition and hopefully fulfill their dream.

How do you incorporate these experiences at the elite level in treating sports injuries in your clinic?

Every athlete or active individual has a goal, whether that’s to win an Olympic Medal, compete in Husky athletics or finish in a 5k race. Elite athletes rely on a team to successfully compete at an elite level. I utilize this team approach in taking care of athletes in my clinic. This includes listening to the athlete and/or trainers, performing a comprehensive evaluation to identify any biomechanical factors that may be contributing to their injury and developing an appropriate treatment plan with the appropriate resources to allow a quick return to their specific sports. It requires a team approach in order to succeed.

You also treat sports related and musculoskeletal injuries in the adolescent athlete. What is the typical age range of these patients and what are some of the more common injuries and conditions you see?

As part of my sports practice, I will see adolescent athletes over the age of 10 years. It is important to understand that adolescent athletes are not just small adults. They have different bone structures and respond differently to the stresses of sports activities. Unfortunately, adolescent athletes are now competing year round without periods of rest and we are starting to see more injuries. Typical injuries include concussions, anterior cruciate ligament tears, fractures of the spine and stress fractures in the legs. I spend time working with and educating the adolescent athletes, their parent and coaches about how to successfully return to sport and prevent future injury.

How did you become involved with the Racing the Planet ultra-marathon racing series?

I’ve been involved with “Marathon Medicine” since my residency back in the early 1990s. Since that time, I’ve been a Co-Medical Director for the Baltimore Marathon and physician for several marathons including the Boston Marathon and Seattle Marathon. During this time I’ve competed in many multi-endurance events ranging from short distances (5 k runs, Olympic triathlons) to longer distances (Marathons, Ironman Triathlons, 150 mile adventure races and 250 mile mountain bike races).

In 2005, I was asked to Medical Direct Racing The Planet’s 4 Desert Races (www.4deserts.com), a series of 150 mile ultra-marathons held around the world. The race organizer was looking for a physician who had adventure sport experience as an athlete. Working with Racing The Planet has allowed me to combine my passion for sports medicine, knowledge as a competitive athlete and zest for travel to help other athletes. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to China, Chile, Egypt and Antarctica to provide sports medicine care and develop research.

Your current research interests focus on the prevention and treatment of overuse injuries and medical illnesses of these ultra-endurance athletes. Why study the ultra-endurance athlete?

Ultra-endurance running events are becoming more common. Yet, we don’t have a good understanding of the effects of participating in these events have on the body and mind. My goal is to better understand the various injuries these athletes experience, develop appropriate treatment programs to return the athletes to running quickly and develop preventative programs to help them avoid future injuries.

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