Soccer great reunites with trainer after knee replacement surgery

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Considered a true pioneer in sports medicine in St. Louis, Bill Hopfinger today is president of St. Louis Home Health, a Medicare-certified, orthopedic-only home health agency.

He formerly was head athletic trainer and physical therapist for St. Louis University and numerous professional soccer teams, including the original St. Louis Steamers. Hopfinger received the 2014 Alumni Merit Award from St. Louis University. He received a bachelor's degree in physical therapy from SLU in 1978 and has worked as an instructor for the program in physical therapy and sits on the Program in Physical Therapy Advisory Board.

A member of St. Catherine Laboure Parish, he is president of the Board of Directors of Cardinal Ritter Senior Services and a member of the St. Anthony's Medical Center Charitable Foundation.

Hopfinger was the assistant trainer of the old St. Louis Stars pro doccer team when the head trainer took leave from an illness. So at 21 and still in SLU's physical therapy school Hopfinger became head trainer. That led to his work with the St. Louis Steamers.

Hopfinger, who grew up in Seven Holy Founders Parish, stays in close touch with many of the soccer icons in St. Louis, most of them Catholics. His work earlier this year brought a visit to Pat McBride, a member of the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame, the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and the St. Louis Soccer Hall of Fame. After his illustrious playing career, McBride coached junior college soccer for 25 years. He guided the 1976 Meramec team to the NJCAA National Championship and was named national coach of the year. He later coached Major Indoor Soccer League teams in St. Louis and Kansas City.

McBride called on Hopfinger's company to help him rehab from knee surgery. He's had four surgeries on his left knee, finally getting a knee replacement on Dec. 19. He went four years without straightening his knee. The physical therapy was a big help, he said after five weeks of treatment.

McBride, a parishioner of St. Justin Martyr in Sunset Hills, never had a knee injury playing soccer. He figures it went bad because of numerous years of running after playing soccer. "Just wear and tear," he said.

As a player, McBride earned five caps (appearances) with the U.S. National Team and played in the National Professional Soccer League and the North American Soccer League for a combined nine seasons. He was a member of the U.S. Olympic Team in 1964 and the U.S. National Team from 1968-72. He played professionally for the St. Louis Stars from 1967 through 1976, earning NASL All-Star recognition three times. He was a member of the St. Louis University national championship teams in 1963 and 1965, earning All-American honors in 1964 and 1965.

McBride's extensive list of friends vouch for his friendly demeanor, calling the 73-year-old one of the nicest guys in the soccer community. The former soccer player was a good patient, his therapist said, and McBride returned the compliment, praising the care he received.

Hopfinger has operated St. Louis Home Health since 1996 and has a philosophy of keeping the same therapist with a patient throughout that patient's therapy. The firm has been named to the Top 500 of the HomeCare Elite top-performing home health agencies in the United States for the past 10 years. The majority of patients are under age 65 and many have had total joint replacements. Most patients are out of the hospital in two days. Once they can leave their home safely, they usually go to an outpatient facility for therapy.

Hopfinger's association with Cardinal Ritter Senior Services began when his father was a patient at Mary Queen and Mother Center in Shrewsbury after a severe stroke. "I was impressed with the way they took care of him," Hopfinger said. "It's the way I'd want to take care of folks. They saw him as somebody's husband, dad and grandpa."

Kenny is a staff writer for the Review and a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Oakville. 

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