Dr. Roger Härtl has been named the first winner of the new Hans Kraus Award for Muscle Pain Education, presented by Foundation for Research and Advocacy for Muscle Pain Education (FRAME). Dr. Härtl, the Hansen-MacDonald Professor of Neurological Surgery and Director of Spinal Surgery at Weill Cornell Medicine and Co-director of Och Spine at NewYork-Presbyterian, was lauded for having championed the inclusion of soft tissue into spine evaluation and treatment protocols at the Weill Cornell Medicine Center for Comprehensive Spine Care.
“As a surgeon who sees and treats many patients with back and back issues due to ‘degenerative’ disorders, I have always been intrigued by our incomplete understanding of how pain and bodily dysfunction evolves and can be treated,” said Dr. Härtl. “This was the main reason for us to bring together a team of multidisciplinary specialists to care for our patients with back pain. We surgeons are successful in treating straightforward cases of nerve compression in the spine and spinal instability, but our diagnostic abilities are not always sufficient to completely understand what patients are really suffering from. Back and neck pain can have many causes, and the muscle as a primary source of pain and dysfunction has been frequently overlooked in our training.”
The award is named for Dr. Hans Kraus (1905-1996), a pioneer in the field of sports medicine and back pain, and one of the developers of the Kraus-Weber test that became a physical fitness standard in the 1940s and 1950s. He was a catalyst in the creation of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Exercise during the Eisenhower administration after publishing his study finding that American schoolchildren were less fit than children in Austria and Italy.
Dr. Kraus, an advocate of building muscle strength and flexibility, was also a renowned rock climber, a sport he enjoyed until age 79. He is credited with developing trigger-point therapy, which was controversial at the time, and used it on celebrities including President John F. Kennedy, whom he treated (albeit surreptitiously) for his back pain.
“I adore Hans Kraus, which is one reason this award is so special to me,” says Dr. Härtl. “He the father of sports medicine in the United States, and as a trained surgeon he early on recognized the limits of surgery in those days. As a passionate rock climber who kept a lifelong connection with his climbing roots in the Dolomites, he pioneered rock climbing in the northeast of the United States. He combined several full lives into his allotted one, contributing to medicine, public service, and climbing.”
FRAME established the Hans Kraus Award for Muscle Pain Education to recognize those who advance understanding and treatment of back pain. The inaugural award was announced at the FRAME Gala on April 27, 2023, at Bryant Park Grille.