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Thursday 31 March 2016

Farewell from our physio Benn

Today, Solent Sport says goodbye to their long-standing physiotherapist Benn Digweed. Benn has played a huge role in helping Southampton Solent University students, staff and the general public during his time with us. He has also helped top-level student athletes in the High Performance Academy achieve sporting success.

Benn talks us through his Solent journey in his own words.

Had I known that I would be sitting here as Head Physiotherapist seven years after slotting away that winning penalty for Southampton Solent University’s Saturday team in the cup final, I would have laughed you out of the treatment room.

For those unaware of how I came to be at Solent, it was when studying for my physiotherapy masters that I turned up at Hardmoor sports ground with my football boots over my shoulder asking if they needed ‘a Ginger Ronaldinho’.


The dream teamThe team said yes and, from that point, my time under the managerial magic of one Mr James ‘Glass Ankle’ Grant (Granty) began. After a couple of fantastic seasons of football and completing my studies, I gained my first post as a Junior Physio in Portmouth. After a time in the role I decided to be cheeky enough to ask Granty if I could come across to physio for the High Performance Academy (HPA).

Over the next three years, I worked one night a week between work at Chelsea Academy and full time with the NHS to build my physio skills in the world of sport.


In 2012, I worked with Solent Sport and other physio colleagues (Jason Palmer – I am hugely grateful) to put forward a full-time Head Physiotherapist role at Solent. The role was accepted and I came in during that Olympic year to build a physiotherapy service, although I was essentially the only physio in the service!

Over the next four years, the HPA went from strength to strength under the guidance of Granty and two of the most driven people I have ever worked with – Johno and Crusey. With each year came an increase in the standard of athlete, more provision, more support and greater performance.

Benn treating one of our HPA athletes

Outside of the athletes, I was lucky enough to help a range of Hampshire Talented athletes, student club members, private customers and a whole host of Solent staff. Many came for advice, a chat, or the best rehabilitation we could provide.

It now supports up to fifty athletes using twenty-five student interns to provide an innovative athlete-centered approach to performance. This is unique to this university and, something the support team and I are hugely proud of, especially when you stand back and watch these amazing youngsters perform in their sport and achieve academically.

Benn with gold medallist Lia Stephenson and the HPA team

I have so many highlights over the years that stand out to me but those fresh in my mind include: Matt Watson and Lia Stephenson’s Gold medals at BUCS Indoors athletics; Greg Bridet coming back from a collapsed lung to box again; and Laura Edwards, a commonwealth gymnast, coming back from an ACL reconstruction to turn to into a very talented pole vaulter. Watch out Tokyo 2020!

However, what is even more special than watching their performances, is seeing all these student athletes maturing, getting their qualifications and developing as people. Some from challenging backgrounds, others, balancing huge sporting and academic workloads while welcoming opportunities with open arms. It’s been a pleasure to be part of their journey.

Benn playing basketball with the Solent Sport staff

It’s sad to be finishing my time at Solent, with life moving on outside of work and completing my masters, but I’ve decided to take a brief sabbatical over the summer starting with a trip to Japan for three weeks in April.

There is, of course, so many people that I want to thank for being so welcoming to me at Solent. The management team allowed me to develop as a person and clinician. I have been humbled by the cards and thank you messages that have come my way and I wanted a way to express my thanks and well wishes to all those who I have come into contact with (pun intended!). I hope this guest blog article serves its purpose.

So, finally, I hand over the physio reins to David Murphy who comes from Reading FC. Please give David the warm welcome that I received and I have no doubt that he will take this part of the physiotherapy service forward.

It’s been a pleasure to serve the University, to return people back to work and help people achieve their sporting goals.

Best wishes to all

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish (Steve Jobs)

Yours sincerely

Benn Digweed (aka Diggers )

Follow me on Twitter at @benndigweed