By: Justin Felisko
May 06, 2016
UVALDE, Texas – It is hard to believe that at 37 years old, and with 18-plus years of experience on the Built Ford Tough Series, that Ben Jones never had surgery on his shoulders or his knees until last month.
Jones has dislocated his shoulder multiple times, twisted and bent his knees in unthinkable positions and has been helped out of the arena by PBR sports medicine more times than one can count.
Regardless, the Australian cowboy never had to get shoulder surgery until a somewhat freak injury last month at the First PREMIER Bank / PREMIER Bankcard Invitational In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, when he was hung up and stepped on under the arm by Swashbuckler at 3.71 seconds.
The injury resulted in three major ligament tears in his left shoulder (free arm), as well as a sliced artery that required a trip to a South Dakota hospital that night.
Jones underwent reconstructive shoulder surgery April 14.
“Tandy (Freeman) said it was a lot bigger than what they thought,” Jones said Thursday afternoon. “I was in surgery for about five hours. He put a lot of anchors in, six or seven. He said out of the four major ligaments, I tore three of them right off. I didn’t tear my bicep, but I tore everything else off. I would have thought my bicep would have been the first one to go. I don’t have big muscles.”
So is this the end of the journey for Jones?
“Ah shoot man, I have another year left in me now after this year,” Jones said. “I am not retiring anytime soon.”
According to Freeman, Jones is out of competition for six months, which would make it possible for Jones to return for the BFTS season finale in Tucson, Arizona, on Oct. 22-23.
Jones believes it isn’t impossible for him to still qualify and compete at the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals on Nov. 2-6 at the state-of-the-art T-Mobile Arena.
He is currently 19th in the world standings with 787.5 points. Jones had finished in the Top-10 in three consecutive events before the injury, including back-to-back third-place finishes in Phoenix, Arizona, and Duluth, Georgia. Jones was 12-for-33 in 12 BFTS events and ranked 15th in the world at the time of his injury.
“I think I will squeeze in there for the Finals with right where we are,” Jones said. “That is what I am planning. Hopefully we squeeze in there. Get into those Finals and start again in New York.”
Jones is 537.5 points ahead of No. 35 J.W. Harris, who has yet to drop out of the Top 35 despite undergoing elbow surgery on Feb. 12.
Harris is aiming for a return to competition September in Thackerville, Oklahoma.
Jones was surprised to learn he had sustained so much damage in his shoulder when he first met with Freeman in Dallas.
“They thought it was just broke and I would be back in a couple of weeks,” Jones said. “I went to see Tandy and it was a totally different story. It shattered me. It is one of the hardest things I ever had to deal with.”
Jones has begun physical therapy three days a week at Fit-N-Wise in Decatur, Texas, and feels he is ahead of schedule in his recovery. He still has a massive brace with a pillow inside it to help keep his shoulder stable, but he has been cleared to rehab without it through various resistance band exercises.
“They do everything there,” Jones said. “That is an unreal place. I wouldn’t be this far ahead if it wasn’t for this place.”
Jones thanked Fit-N Wise, as well as his other sponsors Kaplow insurance Agency and Viducic Bucking Bulls for sticking by him during his recovery.
The Goulburn, Australia, bull rider admits even he is surprised he went as long as he did without getting his shoulder operated on in previous years.
“It would come out a few times here and there, but it just never gave me problems,” Jones said. “I’ve been on a lot of bulls. That is why I want to be mad, but I can’t be mad. I have been on a lot of bulls without getting things done.”
He almost underwent shoulder surgery in 1999 before he had visa issues.
“Ben is just an old-school, tough Australian,” Murray said. “I always tease him, he reminds me of a pig’s ear. He is an old-school, tough Australian that is the worn out piece of rawhide that is just tough.
“And he loves it.”
Jones isn’t ruling out an earlier return to competition this year if he has to, but Jones will take as much time to rehab as long as he stays within the Top 35 of the world standings.
“The Finals aren’t until November this year,” Jones added. “Like Tandy said. Give yourself six months and you might come back in 4-6 months.
“I might come back a bit earlier.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2016 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.