Alumnus's career in sports medicine leads to role with professional athletes

September 21, 2015

Joshua Blomgren, C96Lisle, Illinois ~ Joshua Blomgren, a sports medicine physician at the top-rated Midwest Orthopedics at Rush University Medical Center, is following his favorite sport of soccer a little closer these days after being named a team physician for the Chicago Fire soccer team.

Now, when he’s not treating injured athletes, the 1996 Biochemistry alumnus and former BenU soccer player has one of Toyota Park’s best views of the game.

“Getting to be on the sidelines at professional events is definitely exciting,” Blomgren said. “Growing up in a small town, there were not a lot of opportunities to attend sports events of the professional magnitude. Now I am up close to the action on a regular basis.”

Blomgren sees many athletes for overuse injuries (subtle injuries to muscles and joints which occur over a longer period of time). Some of the more common overuse injuries include tennis elbow, swimmer’s shoulder, little league elbow, runner’s knee, and other muscle/tendon strains and stress fractures, which are among the most challenging injuries to treat, according to sportsmed.org.

In addition to his appointment with the Chicago Fire, he has been a team physician for the Chicago White Sox for five years. He has also served as a volunteer physician for the Chicago Marathon, during which he helped resuscitate a 47-year-old man who had collapsed after suffering a heart attack. He has also teamed up with former Chicago Bear Hunter Hillenmeyer on ABC 7 Chicago News to discuss the signs and symptoms of concussions, and the importance of reporting their occurrence in youth sports.

“It is a little bit surreal to be so involved with such high-profile athletes,” Blomgren said. “But they, like anybody else, are just interested in feeling better so they can participate in their chosen activity.”

Blomgren chose to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry at Benedictine after making a visit to campus and learning more about its successful track record in preparing future physicians.

“I loved the campus and was extremely excited about the pre-medical aspect of the curriculum,” Blomgren said. “The strengths of the school center around the Benedictine community. My professors had a vested interest in my success and were willing to help out in any way to promote that success.”

Blomgren played on the soccer team for four years, was involved in the American Medical Student Association and the American Chemical Society, participated in the faculty-led Summer Research Program through the College of Science, and volunteered to help researchers at Argonne National Laboratory. He met his wife, Alexandra (Fay), C01 (Nutrition), during his junior year while in a writing class. Today, they have three children – Adeline, Ella and Beckett.

He remembers facing some challenges at Benedictine which he worked hard to overcome. He says he wouldn’t be the person he is today without the support from faculty and staff who encouraged him to rise above some of those experiences.

At one point, he almost considered resigning from his position on the soccer team to get through a difficult course.

“Even though this class was vital to my success in pre-med, one of my professors pointed out to me that I would never have the opportunity to play college soccer again if I quit,” Blomgren said. “I took his advice and continued to thoroughly enjoy my time as a college athlete while still successfully pursuing my academic ambitions.

“Finding balance and time management were things I struggled with when I started at Benedictine,” he acknowledged. “Being an athlete who was also involved in other extracurricular activities means that you have to manage your time wisely to be successful. I was able to learn time management skills at Benedictine and have found them to be helpful in my career.”

Ultimately, his continued involvement in sports inspired him to expand from family medicine to his current passion for sports medicine.

“I find sports medicine to fit my strengths and find it to be somewhat intuitive,” Blomgren said. “It just makes sense. Athletes are an interesting group of patients because they are motivated to get better. I enjoy all aspects of sports medicine and enjoy taking care of active individuals of all ages.”

His background as an athlete helps him connect with his patients on a more personal level. In high school, Blomgren was once sidelined after having to undergo extensive surgery for a slipped growth plate.

“I went from being on the soccer field one day to having a season-ending surgery the next,” Blomgren said. “It was a somewhat lengthy recovery and during a time when my team was at the state championship. I obviously would have preferred to be on the field playing, but I feel that this experience has helped me relate to my patients because I understand the angst and heartbreak that athletes feel when they are limited in their sport for any amount of time.”

One emerging trend in sports medicine Blomgren has witnessed includes the use of biological products, such as blood and tissue, and living entities such as cells to treat certain conditions.

“This can involve using a patient’s own blood or bone marrow to treat a variety of muscle/tendon and joint conditions,” Blomgren said. “This is probably where the largest area of growth will continue to occur.”

Even with his multiple responsibilities, Blomgren isn’t a stranger around Benedictine. In 2015, he was recognized for his achievements as a Rising Star among BenU alumni. He also regularly attends College of Science reunions and has spoken to pre-medical students who were seeking advice for succeeding in graduate school and breaking into the field.

“It is always important to remember your roots, and my professional career started at Benedictine,” Blomgren said. “Staying connected helps me to remember this fact.”

Students who are interested in the field of sports medicine should connect with a physician or athletic trainer to learn about working in sports medicine as early as possible, he said.

“Caring for athletes occurs across all spectrums of medicine and there are ways to involve yourself early if you are interested,” Blomgren said. “My advice to anyone interested in medicine is to pursue your interests even if they are not directly related to medicine, and to be involved in a wide variety of activities to make yourself a well-rounded person. This will help you to be successful not only in applying to medical school, but in life as well.”

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Benedictine University is an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois and Mesa, Arizona. Founded in 1887, Benedictine provides 56 undergraduate majors and 16 graduate and four doctoral programs. Benedictine University is ranked No. 1 among the country's fastest-growing campuses between 2003-2013 in The Chronicle of Higher Education's list of private nonprofit doctoral institutions, and Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the fifth consecutive year in 2015. Benedictine University's Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain's Chicago Business as the fifth largest in the Chicago area in 2015.

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