During his three years playing for the Indianapolis Colts, Brian Ratigan (MARK ’93 ) took a lot of razzing from his teammates for the heavy load he carried during the off-season — specifically, biology, chemistry, physics and organic chemistry. The former Irish linebacker always had felt called to be a doctor. The science courses were the prerequisites he needed to sit for the MCATs, the first step toward medical school. Sports injury surgeries while playing for the Fighting Irish had given him a close look at what orthopedic doctors do. “I appreciated the return back to sport and how the docs and trainers helped me out along the way,” he says, adding with a laugh that it was a little deeper appreciation than he may have wished.
Three more surgeries as an NFL player and an injury in the preseason of his fourth season led him to initiate Plan B. After a honeymoon year in Washington, D.C., where his new wife Maura (’93, ’96) had taken a position at a law firm, Ratigan began med school at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. (Maura now teaches at the Notre Dame Law School.) Throughout his four years and orthopedic residency, where he got some team physician experience with Philadelphia’s Phillies and Eagles, his dream was to make it back to Notre Dame someday.
One more stop along the way — a sports medicine fellowship at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles, where the Lakers, Dodgers, Kings and Ducks are all treated and where he was able to study with the doctors who invented the Tommy John surgery that has saved the career of many a pitcher. The wealth of expertise that Ratigan had garnered by 2008 made him a welcome addition to the South Bend Orthopaedics practice, the group that has traditionally worked with Notre Dame Athletics. Named team orthopedic surgeon in 2010, Ratigan is back out on the Notre Dame turf once again — sometimes with some of his five children in tow. There, despite his wizardry as a surgeon, he’s preach- ing the gospel of prevention: “I love Notre Dame, and I want the athletes to perform at a high level. I think I’m the right guy to help them do that, but our goal is to keep them out of the operating room.”