How A Pickup Hockey Game Injury Led To An Invention That Helps Elite Athletes

By Bruce Kasanoff /

Several years ago, when Ted Bezemer severely injured his shoulder playing hockey, the last thing on his mind was helping pro athletes. He just wanted to avoid surgery, which is what his physician was recommending.

Bezemer is an orthopedic physical therapist and strength coach, so after dislocating his shoulder, he started to think about non-surgical recovery options. He was looking for something more dynamic than just strengthening, and also something that “would progress with me as I progressed. I didn’t want anything that was too easy.”

Purely for his own benefit and recuperation, he started tinkering around, putting together PVC pipes and the like. Eventually, he came up with something that looks like the symbol on a Do Not Enter sign: a circle with a line across it. The “line” is a handle you hold, and the circle is a tube that contains one to three half-pound balls in it. By moving your arm, you spin the balls inside the circle, and that creates a tremendous amount of force that your body must control.

But at that point in time, he just had a crudely-assembled device that everyone called “the thing.” He kept it in his gym and clients started asking to use it. Bezemer recalls, “They're picking it up with both hands, which wasn't how I expected anyone to use it, and they're spinning it and moving it overhead. Afterwards, they’re breathing heavily and saying: Oh, wow... I feel that in my core… it’s kind of fun.”

“That was when I had the aha that maybe we should make this as an actual training device, instead of just a bolted together thing on my floor. My shoulder was feeling better. I was back to playing hockey, and these serious fitness enthusiasts were enjoying it.”

Many prototypes and three versions later, Bezemer started selling what he came to call AXIO Centripetal Training. He still didn’t know what he had or how to market it, but he started bringing it to various fitness and health events. Being based in Park City, Utah helped, because he encountered a number of athletes and entrepreneurs who offered guidance and spread AXIO via word-of-mouth.

He met a guy named Steve Thomas, a shoulder research Ph.D. at Temple University who understood the science behind Bezemer’s invention. Thomas is an advisor to Major League Baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies and he introduced Bezemer to their head trainer. The team started traveling with the AXIO. Other teams reached out to learn more: in baseball, the Angels, Dodgers and Royals; in football, the Rams and Chargers. 

Bezemer is insistent he doesn’t want this to be another fad-driven exercise device. Although it’s simple enough for anyone to use, he says the AXIO especially excels with serious athletes and trainers, because there are so many ways to use it. He struggles to tell me what his ideal outcome is, and is clearly more interested in helping elite athletes than in making a quick buck.

“When professional athletes embrace my creation,” he admits, “It justifies the time and the thought that went into it. And if a pitcher uses the AXIO and then throws a no-hitter, it’s going to make me extremely happy.”

In today’s world, you find the same stores and the same products wherever you go. But every now and then, you stumble across a true inventor with an original product that exists simply because she or he was driven to find a better solution. AXIO is notable because it is the by-product of talent, ingenuity and persistence… it is a simple but incredibly powerful tool that somehow never existed before.

One last point: when I get the AXIO spinning, it’s like stepping on the gas pedal of a Ferrari. Force emerges instantly—seemingly out of nowhere—and suddenly I’m using my arm, shoulder, back, stomach and leg muscles to control it. The world recedes, and all I focus on is my body and the feedback it’s receiving. I may never be a pro athlete, but at least I now have one thing in common with some of them.