Hans Kraus, who died in New York last week at 90, was the father
of sports medicine. Special contributor Robert H. Boyle, who
wrote about Kraus for SI, recalls an extraordinary man:
This is an article from the March 18, 1996 issue
Kraus's involvement in sports medicine came naturally. In
addition to being a doctor, he was a fencer, an amateur boxer, a
member of the Ski Hall of Fame and a mountaineer of
international renown with first ascents from the Dolomites to
the Tetons. Born in Trieste, Kraus was raised in Zurich, where
he was tutored in English by James Joyce. "He dint do a goot
chob, dit he?" Kraus liked to say.
Kraus had always wanted to be a physician, but at 16, while
trying in vain to save a climbing companion from a fatal fall,
he sustained a severe rope burn that took much of the skin from
his palms. Told he could never use his hands again, Kraus
embarked on his own rehabilitation, soaking his palms in warm
water several times a day while struggling to move his fingers.
The scars remained all his life, but after weeks of
self-treatment he had regained the use of his hands.
As a young surgeon at the University of Vienna Hospital, Kraus
discovered clinical evidence of the benefits of exercise in
healing fractures. Patients who performed the exercises he
prescribed recovered faster than those who didn't exercise, even
when the exercising group had fractures that were more severe. I
met Kraus in 1955, after he had given a report at the White
House showing that American youngsters were not as fit as their
European counterparts. The report prompted Dwight Eisenhower to
establish what is now the President's Council on Physical
Fitness and Sports. Later Kraus returned to the White House to
treat the back pain of his most famous patient, John F. Kennedy.
Others who benefited from Kraus's treatments included St. Louis
Cardinals first baseman Bill White, who needed help with a bad
back, and skier Billy Kidd, who attributed his gold medal at the
1970 world championships to Kraus's care of his back and ankle
Maidi Kraus, Hans's wife of 38 years, says her husband wanted no
memorial service. In a sense he has no need of one: His legacy
lives on throughout the world of sports.