USC-Verdugo Hills Hospital physician volunteers to work with La Cañada High student athletes


As an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine, Alex Weber has worked with the most elite of athletes, honing his skills with University of Michigan’s basketball team, the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Bulls.

Last month, the 33-year-old USC-Verdugo Hills Hospital physician added another notable institution to his roster — La Cañada High School.

Working as a team physician on a voluntary basis, Weber began visiting the campus during Wednesday afternoon football practice sessions and accompanied the team at away games. Now that the Spartan football season has ended, he will go on to work with other boys and girls teams on campus.

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“My goal is to take the best care of the athletes and do what they and their parents want,” Weber said in a recent interview on the La Cañada High School field. “As long as the athletes are getting good care and, when they’re healthy, getting back to the field, that’s a win for me.”

In the same interview, LCHS Athletic Director Kristina Kalb said the football team had gotten by for years recruiting parents with the requisite professional qualifications to act as team physicians during the fall season.

But that only lasted as long as the football season did, and once those parents’ children graduated, Kalb found it difficult to find a replacement for what she feels is a critical component of maintaining athletes’ health. A local physician’s office is filling the need at the moment, but Kalb said she hopes Weber’s consistent presence at the school will further benefit students.

“I’m so excited,” Kalb said. “Not only has Dr. Weber helped our football players, he’s also helped players of other sports. The kids really respond to him.”

Maybe it’s because of Weber’s youth, or because he himself was once a student athlete. He recalled being just 15 years old and traveling with a national-level volleyball team when he received a chance invitation from a team physician to come see orthopedic surgeons and sports medicine specialists in action.

“She said, ‘If you enjoy this you should look into orthopedic medicine,’” Weber recalled. “When I got back home I checked into sports medicine, and I was hooked. There was never really a deviation from that point.”

The teen worked summers shadowing his neighbor, who worked in the field, and eventually graduated from Vassar College in 2005 with a degree in neuroscience and chemistry. He attended medical school at State University of New York at Buffalo and worked at the Hospital for Special Surgery in 2010 before heading off to University of Michigan for a five-year orthopedic surgery residency and a one-year fellowship in the sports medicine sub-specialty at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center.

In September, Weber’s career trajectory brought him to USC, where he plans to research regenerative medicine, cartilage restoration and using genetically engineered proteins derived from human genes to prevent degeneration.

As with his local clients and post-graduate work with professional athletes, his work on the Spartan playing field focuses not only on mending hurts, but helping athletes prevent injuries.

“For someone who was an athlete to be part of the the team of people keeping athletes healthy is important to me,” he said. “[Athletes] know their bodies better than anyone else, so if they tell you there’s something wrong, you need to pay attention to that.”

Kalb said she agrees with the new doctor’s preventive approach and is looking forward to seeing how the rest of the school year plays out.

“Going forward, Dr. Weber will be with us for winter, spring and fall (seasons), hopefully for a long time,” Kalb said.

“That’s the plan,” Weber said with smile.


Sara Cardine,

Twitter: @SaraCardine