Experience the Game-Changing Story of Sport and Injury at Thackray Museum’s Brand-New Season of Events

Thackray Museum of Medicine is thrilled to announce the launch of its summer season’s schedule, featuring an exciting lineup of exhibitions and events related to sports for all the family. Entitled “On the Bench,” it presents the opportunity to learn the science behind sports from different perspectives – professional athletes, sports medical professionals, and sports enthusiasts and its launching on 22nd July 2023. 

The main exhibition will focus on bringing to the forefront the incredible individual stories of injury from former Leeds Rhinos player Stevie Ward, and the brilliant untold story of Norman Francis (Coach for Let’s Do More Basketball), while the Leeds Roller Dolls Rollerderby will focus on team sport injuries. 

The exhibition will feature objects donated by the athletes alongside medical and physiotherapy equipment routinely used to treat sports injuries, telling the stories of their careers, injuries, treatment, and road to recovery. The exhibit also includes photographs by the incredible Ian Beesley, showcasing his documentation of the Bradford Bulls during their peak of fame in the memorable 2001 season. It will demonstrate the care people in sports receive from physiotherapists and doctors, alongside the personal and emotional support integral to mental well-being while recovering. 

“On the Bench” also provides visitors with a rare opportunity to peek behind the scenes and onto the treatment table, where they can hear firsthand injury stories from the athletes themselves. When does the pain threshold become intolerable? 

Stevie Ward will share his personal experiences with head injuries and how they have shaped his transition into a new career beyond the world of sports. Moreover, he will recap the inspiring story of his extraordinary comeback from a shoulder injury, culminating in his pivotal role in the Rhino’s triumphant 2017 Super League Grand Final win.

IMAGE: Stevie Ward, former Leeds Rhinos player

Commenting on the exhibition, Stevie Ward expressed his excitement: “It appears the injuries I had in my career are resulting in something I could never have imagined! I am so proud to be part of creating “On the Bench” alongside the Thackray Museum of Medicine. With Thackray at the heart of such a huge sporting city like Leeds, I think it’s going to be the first remarkable insight and look behind the curtain into how athletes recover both mentally and physically in the pursuit of glory.”

Another remarkable story showcased in “On the Bench” belongs to Norman Francis, an ex-basketball player and the current coach of the Mandela Warriors in Chapel Town. Francis shares his personal journey of resilience, recounting the challenges he faced after losing his leg and how he overcame this setback to continue coaching and nurturing the next generation of Leeds’ basketball stars.

IMAGE: Norman Francis, an ex-basketball player and the current coach of the Mandela Warriors 

While discussing the project, Norman Francis said: “When I learned about the exhibition, I realised that it is about helping people. And that’s what I do, that’s why I coach. I try to help the kids who want to play basketball understand it, enjoy it, and succeed in it.”

Norman also added: “The examples of other people who move on after their injuries inspired me during my recovery process. As well as my own experience helped me understand that we all have some kind of barriers in our lives. But if you focus and believe, have hope and trust, then you can get over that, move on with your life and enjoy it. This is the message I aim to translate.“

In addition, the exhibition will feature the Leeds Roller Derby Club, a women’s flat-track roller derby team. Players Catherine Robins and Vicky B will share their inspiring tales of persevering in roller derby despite setbacks, a sport in which injuries such as severe bruising and sprains are commonplace. 

To celebrate the opening of the exhibition, across the summer holidays, families are invited to take part in activities exploring how athletes prevent injuries and how they are treated if they do. From trying your hand at physical warm-up routines used by your favourite sports stars to test your skills at sling and cast making, there’s something for every sports fan in the family. Inspire your own future health and sports heroes with our new interactive science show “Thackray Science LIVE”. Visitors aged 7+ can join the Thackray Boffins as they uncover the secret science that sits behind medical innovation and discovery. What is the physics at play when someone breaks a bone, what are the limits of the natural elasticity of our bodies, and how do external forces affect an athlete when they’re hitting the track at full speed – expect live demonstrations and explosive action as the Boffins answer these questions and more. 

Activities will take place every day of the school holidays, with Thackray Science LIVE  happening every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  

The Thackray Museum’s “On the Bench” season promises an unforgettable journey into the world of sports, injuries, and triumph. Don’t miss out on this special opportunity to explore the stories behind the players and the extraordinary medical professionals who help them recover.

For more information, including ticketing and event details, please visit https://thackraymuseum.co.uk/event/on-the-bench-summer-at-thackray/ 

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