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Q&A with Wild Team Physician

In the State of Hockey, it’s no surprise that hockey runs (or skates) in the family. For Dr. Brad Nelson, who grew up in central Minnesota, that’s exactly the case. He played in high school and a little into college. Now his son and daughters are continuing that ‘hockey family’ legacy. While his kids are on the ice, Dr. Nelson is behind the bench with the Minnesota Wild. We caught up with Dr. Nelson to hear about his experience working with the team.

What do you do as part of the medical team for the MN Wild?

Another orthopedic surgeon and I take care of the team’s musculoskeletal injuries, help cover games and will see the players in clinic if their injuries need additional follow-up.

How often are you with the team?

As the medical provider for the team we do preseason physicals on all the players and then cover the home games. We do go on the road to some away games and the playoffs. I split the coverage with Dr. Joel Boyd.

Do you travel with the team?

Yes, we travel with the team for playoffs. Throughout the year, both myself and Dr. Boyd will be on a few roads trips. It’s a little more frequent towards the end of the year. While the team is in a push for the playoffs, they feel a little better having their own doctors on the road.

In the NHL the home team physician takes care of both teams. So we actually take care of the visiting team like they were our players. If they get hurt and need stitches, or need to have an x-ray during the game, we’ll do that. Then we communicate with their physicians before the team leaves to go back home.

Where do you sit during the games?

Most of the time I’ll sit in the athletic training room across the hallway from the bench, and watch the game on television. I have a seat, but it’s a little bit too far away from the ice.

What’s the most common injury you see?

As an orthopedic surgeon, the most common injuries we see are knee injuries. Particularly injuries to the MCL. But we also see a lot of contusions from pucks to the foot and ankle area or AC joint separation in the shoulder. Our primary care sports doctors take care of the concussions.

What do you enjoy most about working with professional athletes?

There’s a number of things. As a former athlete, I enjoy being part of the competitive team environment. I like taking care of athletes, whether they are pros or high school athletes, because they are motivated to get better.

If you could create your own hockey line to skate on, who would be part of it? 

That’s tough. I’m a defensemen and I would pick Bobby Orr as my partner. I would also probably pick Ken Dryden as my goaltender, Wayne Gretzky as one forward, Maurice Richard as another and for a guy in front of the net, I would pick Mario Lemiuex.

If you could play for the Wild what position would you play?

I would definitely play defense.

What are two things every hockey player should keep in their hockey bag?

They have to make sure they have a water bottle. You need to be hydrated at practice and at the game. Players also have to make sure you have a mouth guard.

Do you have any pregame rituals?

The team physicians always get dinner together and bring it back to eat in the athletic training room. The players see us doing that and we get a little bit of grief. But that’s our pregame ritual, we have our pregame meal with all the team doctors.

Who is your favorite hockey player of all time?

Bobby Orr. He was one of my idols growing up.

What’s it like to be the team doctor for the Wild?

Being a team doc is really an enjoyable thing. It’s a lot of time, and a lot of time watching hockey. So you have to have a real love of the game to make it worth spending that much time at a rink. I think those of us who take care of the Wild really love the game of hockey and like being there and spending time with players.

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