Whether it’s looking for a lost tooth on the ice or aiding a player with a bloody nose, Brian Patafie says it’s all part of the job.
After all, Patafie is an athletic therapist/coordinator of injury management for the Evansville IceMen hockey team, which competes in one of the sports best known for physical contact. The 58-year-old is in his third year with the minor league team in the ECHL (formerly known as the East Coast Hockey League).
“Injuries are going to happen with the number of turnover in players, fatigue, and traveling,” says Patafie, who has both his certification as an athletic trainer and a degree in physical therapy. “But there’s a difference between playing injured and playing hurt. We won’t let them play injured, but we let them play hurt.”
Bumps and bruises are all too common in the sport, but Patafie says he’s dealt with injuries such as cuts from ice skates, torn Achilles tendons, and concussions. He says the most common problems occur in the knees and shoulders.
“There will be a guy who comes to you with something every day, and it’s my job to figure out if that something is something,” he says. “Then there will be the guys who try to hide it so they can play.”
Patafie performs gait analysis where he watches how a player walks and moves to see if he’s favoring a leg or hip. While he sits the bench with the team, he also has plenty of help behind the scenes. The Evansville IceMen have a partnership with Orthopaedic Associates, which provides diagnosis, surgery, and rehabilitation. The team also utilizes a massage therapist and chiropractor.
“We are the envy of many teams, not only for our building (The Ford Center), but also because of our medical partnership,” he says.
In addition to his athletic therapy duties, Patafie sets up the team’s pregame meals, while also booking travel and rooms months in advance. He also chairs the No More Bullies campaign, an anti-bullying program where he and players share their personal stories of overcoming bullies with the local youth.
For more information on the Evansville IceMen, call 812-250-7025 or visit evansvilleicemen.com.