The health benefits of table tennis are well established – and now the sport has graced the pages of one of the most highly respected medical publications in the world, thanks to a consultant surgeon who is also a club chairman.
Bryan Rhodes is Chairman of Burton-in-Kendal TTC in Cumbria and also a consultant trauma and orthopaedic surgeon at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary.
He discusses his love of table tennis – which dates back to playing at the Hermits club in Bradford as a boy – in a feature in The BMJ, a weekly magazine for the medical profession which dates back to 1840.
Bryan said: “The BMJ runs a more light-hearted section about what doctors and surgeons do in their spare time. I’ve read these with great interest and thought as I was coming to the end of my career, I should enter one myself.
“One of my passions is table tennis, so I sent them an email and they contacted me to do an interview and arrange a photographer to visit.
“I’ve played since I was 10 or 12 – I had a friend who played at the Hermits club in Bradford and he said ‘why not come along?’ He was quite an attacking player and I’ve always leant towards being defensive, so he’d be up close to the table smashing them and I’d be nearer the back of the hall trying to get them back.”
Earlier in his medical career, Bryan formed a club at the Arrowe Park Hospital in Wallasey, where he worked, but stopped playing the sport after moving to Cumbria.
But a chance meeting with the then Burton-in-Kendal Chairman, Chris Jones, saw him come back to the sport, and he said: “As soon as I started playing again, I got passionate about it.”
Now chairman of the club himself, he plays in the Kendal & District League, where the team last season won the title. Bryan added: “We’d been trying for 36 years, so I was quite chuffed about that.”
In the article, Bryan talks about the exercise benefits and also comments on the importance of concentration and hand-eye co-ordination in table tennis and as a surgeon. The article also lets readers know how easy it is to pick up the sport or join a local club.
On his appearance in the august pages of The BMJ, he said: “Anything that raises the profile of the sport we love has got to be good.
“One of the points I make is that table tennis is the best inclusive sport. You can play at any age, or if you have a disability, and it’s a very safe sport and you’re at less risk of injury.
“Mind you, I have had a few injuries and even broke a rib playing table tennis – I’m not sure how many others have done that. But, on the whole, it’s one of the safest sports. In trauma clinics, I’ve regularly seen rugby players and skiers but never a table tennis player.
“For mental health, it’s very important, and for socialising. Those of us who enjoy competition and like to play in a league is one side of it, but then there’s the social aspect to it, which is very important to people.”