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From Center Ice to a Career

Published in Orthopedics, For the Health of It Author: Kalie Johnson,PA-C

“Having the ability to be around sports while helping athletes get back onto the playing field has always been very interesting and rewarding for me. This excitement drove me into the field of athletics and human body kinetics, where I began my career as an athletic trainer."

In the clinic at CentraCare M Physicians Orthopedics and in the community as an athletic trainer, Kalie Johnson, PA-C, works with athletes of all ages to recover from various injuries. And also to keep them from happening again.

For her, it’s easy to understand the motivations and concerns of her patients. It wasn’t too long ago that the roles were reversed. Instead of serving as a member of the CentraCare M Physicians Orthopedics team working with St. Cloud State athletics, including the men’s and women’s hockey teams, she was the one on the ice. As a part of the Bethel University women’s hockey team.

“Entering my freshman year in college, I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career. I was just really excited to play hockey,” says Kalie. “Early on, I suffered a shoulder labrum tear — which led me to the training room and the athletic staff. As I continued working with them, I got inspired to pursue it as a career.”

“Having the ability to be around sports while helping athletes get back onto the playing field has always been very interesting and rewarding for me. This excitement drove me into the field of athletics and human body kinetics, where I began my career as an athletic trainer."

Even though she also played soccer and fastpitch softball growing up, it was hockey that allowed Kalie — in a small way — to relive her father’s experience of playing overseas.

“My father was a hockey player. He played in high school, college and then in Czechoslovakia. So, I was basically born with hockey skates on my feet.”

It was during her time playing at Bethel, she got the opportunity to travel to Italy for more than two weeks to play against some European national teams as part of their preparation for the Olympics.

“The cool thing about that experience was that we not only played against them to win, but we also trained them. If there was a play that happened during the game that needed more attention, we would stop the game so they could review it.”

Kalie Johnson's Hockey Journey
Member of an Olympic Training Team in Europe
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For a couple of games, Kalie even got to play as a member of the European teams she was training — which she remembers as a fascinating experience.

“The locker room there was interesting, because I had no clue what their coach or the players were saying. Instead of water there, they had cold tea. And after each game we got to share a meal with them and try different foods while mingling.”

Kalie reflects on her experience fondly as a time where she was able to bond with her teammates while exploring historic buildings and churches in Rome, Venice, Milan and Switzerland. She also got to try different foods, watch fireworks and observe the local New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Looking back, she views her experience in Europe along with all the time she played in youth leagues, high school and college as shaping who her role as a medical provider today.

“I love that I get to work with and mentor young athletes just starting, as well as older individuals just out for a pick-up game,” says Kalie.

“I know what it feels like to have an injury that holds you back from sports. It’s not only physically tough but mentally tough as well. I can sympathize with my athletes while helping them get back to their sport.“