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Sports Medicine Loses Two Icons: Allan J. Ryan, MD, and Richard H. Strauss, MD

THE PHYSICIAN AND SPORTSMEDICINE - VOL 33 - NO. 9 - SEPTEMBER 2022


During the week of August 14, THE PHYSICIAN AND SPORTSMEDICINE (PSM)—and the wider sports medicine community—suffered a double loss: the deaths of our editors emeritus Allan J. Ryan, MD, and Richard H. Strauss, MD. Both served as editors-in-chief for nearly 13 years, and both will be remembered for the vital roles they played in the early evolution of sports medicine.

Ryan died peacefully at Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina, Minnesota, on August 14 at age 89. He was preceded in death by his wife, Agnes, and survived by sons Brendan, James, and Robert, five grandchildren, and a sister and brother. A memorial service will be held in Washington, DC, at a later date.

Strauss died peacefully at his home near Venice Beach, California, on August 17 at age 67. He is survived by his son, Scott C. Strauss, DO, his sister Susie Balala, and his former wife, Mary Beth Mathews. A private memorial service will be held on October 15 in San Diego.

Ryan Helped Define Sports Medicine

Ryan graduated from medical school in 1940 and developed an interest in treating athletes when he started his training as a surgeon. In a profile article published when Ryan retired from PSM in 1986, he noted that there was little in the medical literature on sports medicine when he first earned his MD. "I had to gradually piece it together myself," he said. "People knew I was interested in sports. Athletes began to come to me—I was practicing general surgery—and I began to take care of high school teams."

In the 1950s, Ryan served on early American Medical Association sports medicine committees. He served as president of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) from 1963 to 1964. He was a consultant to the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports and was secretary-general of the International Federation of Sports Medicine (FIMS).

When Ryan became PSM editor-in-chief in 1973, he was a professor of rehabilitation and a team physician at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In 1976 he moved to Minneapolis and took on additional duties as editor-in-chief of Postgraduate Medicine from 1976 to 1979.

Ryan published several articles and texts. Some of his special interest areas included sports medicine as a specialty, drugs in sport, boxing safety, and physical fitness.

He was an avid bike racer for several years and enjoyed collecting antique playing cards. After his retirement from PSM in 1986, he remained active in sports medicine and wrote articles in the medical literature through 1998.

Howard G. (Skip) Knuttgen, PhD, senior lecturer in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School in Boston, and professor emeritus of applied physiology at The Pennsylvania State University in University Park, had longtime professional connections with Ryan, particularly through the ACSM. "He was an innovator and a pacesetter who in 1958 became the 134th person to join the ACSM—an organization that now includes over 20,000 members," he says.

Donald M. Christie, Jr, MD, an internist and sports physician in Lewiston, Maine, remembers how encouraging and welcoming Ryan was to physicians trying to become involved in the new specialty. Christie remembers Ryan convening an ACSM ad hoc working group in the 1970s of physicians who cared for athletes. "This was a labor that later morphed into the Team Physician Course, the outline for the first sports medicine fellowship programs, and the groundwork for establishing the certificate of added qualifications in sports medicine, first offered in 1993," Christie says.

"Always energetic and leading by example, Allan was unfailingly polite, yet never hesitant to express his views, and I appreciated his candid insights," he says.

Strauss Took Sports Medicine to 'Deeper' Levels

Strauss graduated from medical school in 1964 and served in the US Navy for 4 years as a diving medical officer on a nuclear submarine. After completing postgraduate work in pulmonary physiology, he became a member of a hyperbaric research team at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He completed his residency in internal medicine at Rutgers University in 1975. He was a team physician at Harvard University in the late 1970s when he was a pulmonary fellow in Boston, where he also undertook a sports medicine fellowship with orthopedic surgeon Lyle Micheli, MD.

When Strauss succeeded Ryan as PSM editor-in-chief in 1986, he was a faculty member in the Department of Preventive Medicine and Internal Medicine and a team physician at The Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus. During the 1980s and 1990s, Strauss served as an ACSM vice president, a team physician for US Wrestling, and a member of the medical commission of the International Olympic Committee.

Strauss wrote several articles and books; his special areas of interest were decompression sickness, exercise-induced asthma, drugs in sports, and weight loss in wrestlers. His personal sports interests were deep sea diving, swimming, and downhill skiing.

He retired from OSU and PSM in 1998 and moved to the Los Angeles area, where he enjoyed outdoor black-and-white photography with stunt people, models, and actors as his subjects. He remained active in medicine by volunteering 2 days a week at a medical clinic near Hermosa Beach that treats an underserved population.

John Lombardo, MD, clinical professor in the Department of Family Medicine at OSU, was a colleague of Strauss'. "Even when away from his beloved ocean and beach, he became an integral part of the Ohio State community and athletic department," says Lombardo, who is also medical director of the Max Sports Medicine Institute in Columbus. "From the pool deck to the wrestling room to the ice rink to the classroom, to the offices of THE PHYSICIAN AND SPORTSMEDICINE, Dick Strauss was one of the leaders of sports medicine," Lombardo says.

"His care and concern for athletes was only surpassed by his willingness and enthusiasm for educating athletic trainers and young physicians in sports medicine," says Lombardo.

Christie singles out Strauss' role in encouraging internists' involvement in sports medicine. He remembers how Strauss promoted an internal medicine interest group within the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) and tapped Christie to launch an internal medicine series in PSM. "Even though we internists in the AMSSM are vastly outnumbered by family physicians, our numbers have steadily grown, and our influence grows," Christie says.


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