Steward Orthopedic Physician Assistant One of Nation’s Top-Ranked Ninjas
Elly Hart Wins Third Place at National Ninja World Championship
A journey that began at age 3 in a Mommy & Me gymnastics class has vaulted Elspeth “Elly” Hart, DScPAS, PA-C, MPAS, ATC, LAT, to being one of the highest-ranked ninjas in the country, winning third place Sunday, June 27, at the National Ninja World Championship in the Adult Female World Champion and Adult Female Strongest Ninja categories. She is also currently the top-ranked Adult Female Ninja in the New England region.
Hart, 33, secured a spot as a hopeful contestant on American Ninja Warrior, Season 13 following an intense six months of training. While her run for the buzzer was not featured during the Monday June 28 episode, the experience of competing for a spot on the show and inspiring the orthopedic and gymnastics patients in her care was nonetheless enthralling.
“One of the biggest things going into this was that I knew the show wasn’t going to define me,” said Hart. “I plan to train more, train harder and work harder at achieving my goals. I anticipate hitting the buzzer next season.”
A former collegiate gymnast, Hart has had her share of broken bones and other injuries that inspired her to go into Sports Medicine with a particular focus on the field of Gymnastics Medicine, a subspecialty in Sports Medicine. She serves as the Director of the St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center Gymnastics Medicine Sports Medicine Program. St. Elizabeth’s, located in Brighton, MA, is a part of Steward Health Care.
“When I think of myself as a ninja, it’s about inspiring others to get active and be healthy,” Hart said. “It’s more for me about staying in shape and inspiring the next generation.”
She originally qualified for American Ninja Warrior in late 2019, however due to the COVID-19 pandemic she was unable to train last year as gyms were closed. She qualified again in December 2020 after training at a Ninja gym, and completed filming in Tacoma, Washington earlier this year, vying for a chance to be featured on the program.
The Making of a Ninja
Hart got into ninja competitions at the advice of a former gymnastics teammate who thought she would excel at it. One major difference in the sport is where as a gymnast she would train and practice the same routine over and over and be able to visualize it beforehand, ninja competitions contain variable obstacles and participants typically do not know which obstacles will make up the course until they arrive on site for a competition.
“You don’t know the routine until you get there. That was something new to get used to,” Hart said.
To optimize her fitness for ninja competitions, Hart has focused on increasing her upper body strength through different targeted arm workouts. She trains at Vitality Obstacle and Fitness in Fall River, MA and has introduced her gym teammates there to the routine of warming up prior to practicing and competing. This important “prehab” step helps prevent injury and makes sure the body is ready to take the force and impact of a ninja course, she said.
Without access to a ninja gym last year, Hart was not able to scale warped walls and practice on giant obstacles. She was able put up a hanging course and rope climb in her backyard as well as completed a lot of long walks as part of alternative workouts. Mentally, she kept in mind that even though she couldn’t compete in 2020, other opportunities awaited.
A Dedication to Treating Gymnasts
Outside of the gym and clinic, Hart recently founded and directs Gymnastics Medicine: Education and Research, a non-profit dedicated to injury prevention, research, and education around gymnastics. Dr. Thomas Gill, Chair of Orthopedics at St. Elizabeth’s serves on its board of Executive Directors, as does former Olympian gymnast Samantha Peszek, who won a silver medal in the 2008 Games and was a featured speaker at the St. Elizabeth’s Annual Gymnastics Medicine Symposium in 2018.
As a former gymnast who sustained numerous injuries –Hart fractured her back (spondylolysis) at age 8, had a wrist fracture (Gymnast Wrist) at age 9, a fractured patella at 10, and underwent knee surgery at age 12, and many other injuries as she progressed in gymnastics – she wants to inspire the patients she treats to know they, too, can overcome injury and pursue their goals and dreams. Hart is also a USA Gymnastics Medical Provider for Team USA Gymnastics and recently traveled to the Junior Pan American Games in Mexico to assist the team. Ahead of the Olympic Games in Tokyo next month, she also presented on “All About the Wrist” this past Saturday at the USA Gymnastics National Congress to USA Gymnastics gymnasts, parents, coaches, and medical providers in St. Louis, Missouri.
Hart says throughout her journey to become a ninja, she drew inspiration from her patients who encouraged her as they worked with her through their own injuries and cheered her on.
“My patients are super-excited,” she said of her achievements. “Being able to tell my athletes and patients who maybe fracture their spine or get a Spondylolysis, ‘I’ve been in your spot and in your position. You can do this,’ I want them to know there is hope for them after their injury.”