Ben Rowles: physio on wheels

Ben Rowles combines a long-term love affair with skateboarding and his new physio skills to boost the health of skateboarders

Ben Rowles: physio on wheels

Last year was life-changing for Ben Rowles. He graduated from Sheffield Hallam University as a physiotherapist and started a career at Southport and Ormskirk NHS Trust. It was also the year that Ben, a skateboarder since the age of 12, who is passionate about health promotion, launched the Skateboarding Physiotherapist practice.

Tell us about the Skateboarding Physiotherapist

I had the idea just after graduation, but the concept is an accumulation of the many years I’ve spent as a sponsored skateboarder. I was supported financially to travel, film and appear in magazines, which means I’m fortunate to have as friends many other skateboarders, along with photographers, film-makers and skate company owners. I noticed that many people in the industry had had injuries of some kind and I began to provide ad hoc consultations alongside my NHS rotation.

I needed a platform for the people I already knew in skateboarding to see me as a physiotherapist providing a professional service. So I created a website and an Instagram account , which work well – wherever I skate now, people tell me about their injuries. I have support from two skate brands, which provide me with clothing to wear as the Skateboarding Physiotherapist’s uniform.

Do you use digital technology in your work?

Yes, I offer Skype follow-up appointments. To ensure a healthy work/life balance, I was forced to think outside the box about the service I could realistically offer alongside my rotation. Skype allows me to provide a service without a full-time clinic and to track progress with clients across the UK. Ultimately, though, appointments depend on the individual patient’s treatment plan, symptoms and preference. 

Is skateboarding dangerous?

I would say so. But it could be compared to cycling in that once you have learned to ride, you are less likely to fall off. But accidents can’t always be prevented – for example, a pothole could send you flying or set you off balance. Skateboarders are constantly learning new tricks and gaining confidence to perform them faster, or on harder obstacles. This can increase the risk of a mistake and result in injury. Many skateboard injuries catch you off guard while you are attempting something simple. I can relate to this from my own recurrent ankle inversion injuries, or ‘tweaked ankles’. Physiotherapy can help to reduce the risk of injury, aiding a strong and confident return to skateboarding. I value a whole-person approach, which promotes health and wellbeing to aid a holistic recovery.

Do you see health promotion as a key part of physiotherapy?

I feel that physiotherapy plays a central role in health promotion. Our physiotherapy training teaches us much about the concept of wellbeing in all of its forms: physical, mental, social, environmental etc. When we combine that training with the daily contact we have with service users, we are in a great position to promote health, wherever appropriate. I try to address topics such as diet, smoking, stress, alcohol and exercise.

Does your NHS role complement your work with skateboarders?

Definitely. My NHS work enables me to gain invaluable experience and patient mileage in an educational environment, and surrounded by other physios and healthcare professionals. It’s a great place to learn and develop important skills.

Skateboarding aside, how do you relax?

Exercise helps me to relax, so I do a lot of urban and rural cycling and track running. I also have a weekly swim. I regularly use the Headspace app, a type of mindfulness app, to calm my busy mind after work.

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