When New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees injured his right thumb in a Sept. 15 game against the Los Angeles Rams, Dr. Brian Etier immediately started getting messages from family and friends, asking how long Brees would be sidelined. The same thing happened on Oct. 19, when Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa sprained his ankle, just a few weeks before the all-important Nov. 9 matchup against LSU.
“Especially if someone from LSU or the Saints injures themselves, I’ll get texts asking how bad it is and how long he will be out,” Etier said. “You can usually tell what the injury is because of the video. Right away, people will start asking me what’s going on.”
Etier is the ideal go-to expert for such questions. He’s a surgeon specializing in sports medicine at Lafayette General Orthopaedic Center, which is on the same campus as Lafayette General Orthopaedic Hospital. But when he was growing up in Lafayette, attending Our Lady of Fatima and St. Thomas More Catholic High, he wasn’t thinking about becoming a doctor.
Instead, Etier first studied biological engineering at LSU, thinking he would eventually work in the oil business. As he excelled in school, he decided to take the MCAT exam and move on to medical school.
“I just kind of stumbled into it,” he said. “You look around and think about what you want to do. Orthopedics just seemed like the most relatable to engineering. There’s math involved. You work with your hands. You do a lot of planning. I just gravitated to it and the people who were working in it.”
After finishing medical school at LSU, Etier furthered his education at the University of Alabama-Birmingham and the University of Virginia. A former all-state defensive end at STM, Etier was drawn to sports medicine. He always had a feeling he wanted to move back home to Lafayette, and he now finds some of his greatest fulfillment in helping local athletes get back on the field or court after an injury.
“There was a softball player who injured her ankle, and we were able to fix it and she got back to playing in three or four weeks. She was able to play in the playoffs,” Etier said. “There was a high school football player who tore his meniscus, and we fixed it and he played and his team won the state championship. Those kinds of cases stick out to you. You see people undergo treatment and they work incredibly hard. It’s very rewarding.”
Etier also appreciates how people in south Louisiana show their gratitude. Patients have brought him thank-you gifts like homemade tamales or fruits from their own garden. They tell him how his work relieved their pain or allowed them to use an arm or a knee more than ever before.
“Those are always good days,” he said. “With medicine now, there’s so much paperwork, documentation, dealing with insurance companies and that type of thing. It can be easy to lose a little bit of the human feel, but I always try to keep that in mind. It’s nice when you have those reminders of the difference you make.”
When he’s not working, Etier enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three sons. The family can often be seen at UL, LSU and Saints games.
“Growing up here, I had a good family, good teachers, good schools and good friends,” he said. “There was always a piece of me that wanted to come back and raise my family here and give back to the community. I’m very grateful that I’m able to do that.”