Shoulder specialist aims to upskill TASS practitioners

Shoulder expert Ben Ashworth presents his research (Credit: Ben Ashworth)

Professional physiotherapist and shoulder injury specialist Ben Ashworth is set to lend his expertise to the TASS network at a shoulder-focussed workshop next week.

Held at St Mary’s University, the former Arsenal first team physio will deliver a practical session with the aim to equip practitioners with applied knowledge on the preparation, rehab and monitoring of athlete shoulder problems.

TASS: Please describe your current role.

Ben Ashworth: My business Athletic Shoulder Ltd delivers shoulder rehab with clients, consultancy with teams, mentoring and teaching, and now research through project supervision and my own PhD in shoulder performance monitoring at Liverpool Hope University.

TASS: What is your background and how did you get into the profession?

BA: Following physio school and graduating from a degree at University of Birmingham, I quickly did my rotations and a three-year spell in occupational health before I got a lucky break in sport working at London Wasps. Since then I have worked with the BOA and EIS in Olympic sports including a role before the London 2012 Olympics where I was the lead physio for the British Judo team. The last six years has been a fantastic experience working as first team physio at Arsenal.

TASS: Why did you choose to specialise in shoulder problems? Why does this area interest you?

BA: It’s a complex area that is often rehabbed poorly. My client base shoved me in at the deep end and instead of drowning I had to learn to swim! The more shoulders I saw, the more I read, the more mistakes I made, the better I became. Then having to teach courses made me question everything about what I was doing so I became clearer about what worked and what didn’t. It’s been a long journey but my interest has largely been around solving shoulder problems, and the fact I have a passion for it and I can help others based on my own experiences makes it rewarding.

TASS: How did your experience with Arsenal inform your work with athletes from other sports and vice versa?

BA: The principles I brought to Arsenal from rugby and Olympic sport allowed me to challenge practice at the football club. I was employed specifically for that reason – to look at things through a different lens. Arsenal has taught me about how to immerse myself in a role, to basically give up 11 months of the year to dedicate to the players and the club. High pressure and high levels of expectation, high media scrutiny. But it has also taught me that it isn’t about big budgets and facilities. It is about people and processes at whatever level you are working at!


TASS: Do student athletes face any unique shoulder problems and if so, what?

BA: Nothing specific but the student shoulder is still developing strength and robustness. The high variety of sports and pursuits may mean a diverse population of shoulder patients.

TASS: Why do you think it’s important for TASS to host discipline-specific workshops?

BA: In some ways discipline specific workshops can outline a defined scope of practice for practitioners. For me a wider understanding is also key to success for working with individual or team athletes. I personally don’t programme for groups of athletes but with a Masters in S&C and UKSCA accreditation I understand S&C and how it influences training and exercise prescription.

TASS: How do you predict the profession will develop in the next five years?

BA: It is difficult to say but I’d love to see more proactivity. For example educating or seeing people before they develop chronic issues. We have such an opportunity now to use social media platforms and technology to share evidence based prevention plans so we minimise the number of people who get stuck in the cycle of hospital care. For those physios wanting to work in sport, I predict a much more competitive world where they will need to differentiate themselves from the norm to stand any chance of being given an opportunity to interview for jobs.

TASS: What is your ambition in the area of shoulder injury?

BA: I want to be considered by peers to be one of the world leaders in the shoulder performance monitoring space after I complete my PhD and to continue to do great work with the best people to solve shoulder problems.