MemorialCare Medical Group in Long Beach is unlike many other primary care groups in that it has an emphasis in sports medicine. The group also serves as the Family Medicine Residency Program for MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center, where recent graduates of medical school choose to enter residency to obtain on the job training in pursuit of their board certification. Upon completion of family medicine residency, some choose to become fellows and continue their training to obtain additional board certification in sports medicine.

Dr. Snodgrass at X Games
Josh Snodgrass, M.D., standing atop of a 4-story BMX jump, and his team of physicians specializing in sports medicine for action sports athletes recently cared for patients at the X Games in Ventura.

This allows for a strong foundation for the fellows and residents to maintain their primary board certification and continue to work with underserved populations in a primary care context. The Family Medicine Residency is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Primary care physician specializing in sports medicine, Dr. Joshua Snodgrass, has led the Primary Care Sports Medicine Fellowship Program since 2015, where he also serves as faculty. He created a unique track for those interested in sports medicine in action and extreme sports. He runs the only sports medicine fellowship program with an emphasis in action sports in the country.

This has brought him and his team the opportunity to serve as the physicians who support the medical needs of action sports athletes at many California X Games. Snodgrass and his team have also traveled to X Games internationally. All seven of the physicians at the most recent X Games in Ventura, were former fellows that came through Dr. Snodgrass’ program over the years.

"Organized sports, such as football or baseball, often have a strong support network for their athletes,” says Dr. Snodgrass. “They have booster clubs, engaged families, and fundraisers for new equipment. The action sports industry has a much higher incidence of substance abuse and kids that come from broken homes. Understanding an athlete’s social situation can help us get the necessary resources to provide better care and ultimately make them more successful." 

Snodgrass who came from a broken home himself, and was an active street skater in his youth, can identify with these patients and created a program that is designed to support them. He teaches his fellows the value of confidentiality and trust, and the importance of understanding a patient’s background to reach them.

While the team trains on head injuries, ankle injuries, collar bones, and the like; they also work on designing training drills that teach doctors how to jump into an enormous unfilled pool if an athlete goes down, how to get them on a spine board and quickly and carefully hoist them up. This is all part of the planning and practice leading up to every X Game event.

"We all have bills to pay and one of the most difficult things for professional athletes is coping with injuries that stop them from competing,” says Dr. Snodgrass. “Often times if they don't compete, they don't get paid. Our goal in sports medicine is to find a way to reach their performance goals while maintaining athlete safety. This is accomplished by building relationships on trust and mutual respect. I like to teach them about their injury, so they are better equipped to prevent them in the future." 

Dr. Snodgrass purposefully designed the educational curriculum to maximize the engagement and experience of each individual sports fellow. By giving them access to all the usual organized collegiate level sports they build a strong foundation. However, giving them the opportunity to add additional focus on their specific passion reinforces the chances of their success.

"I understand not everyone likes the same thing and that is the beauty of human nature. Educational programs should foster creativity and exploration while giving the fellows all the tools to practice medicine," says Dr. Snodgrass. "I always ask what they are passionate about. Being a physician is difficult but that doesn't mean it can't be enjoyable." 

Dr. Snodgrass also holds the position as Team Physician for Long Beach State Athletics and Cypress College and is working on another partnership with Biola.

Dr. Snodgrass and team of physicians
Dr. Snodgrass and his team of physicians, who happen to all be his former fellows, practice
a drill to retrieve an injured patient out of the “pool” at the X Games.