The Watanabe Club was founded in 2003 as an informal forum for the exchange of ideas and concepts between shoulder surgeons in the developing field of shoulder arthroscopy. As in many of the subspecialty disciplines in orthopaedic surgery in the United Kingdom, the practice of shoulder surgery had evolved embracing all aspects of trauma and reconstructive surgery, including joint replacement under the auspices of the British Elbow and Shoulder Society (BESS). Unlike in continental Europe and the USA, there was no national arthroscopic society meeting in the UK on a regular basis.
At the same time, audits of the experience of orthopaedic trainees revealed that in some regions there was wide exposure to shoulder arthroscopy, both diagnostic and therapeutic, while in other regions trainees might pass through six years of training without ever seeing a single arthroscopic shoulder procedure. There were few shoulder courses offering basic instruction and it was clear that many trainees starting on a shoulder firm had never handled an arthroscope in a shoulder. Courses of advanced instruction in a few centres inspired many by what could be achieved by the great and good, but confidence in tackling complex pathology takes time to acquire and the bewildering array of anatomical variants, pathological lesions, instruments, anchors and peripheral devices proved a daunting prospect to those embarking on an arthroscopic career.
Early on in the Clubs history, it was felt that these regular meetings of members could serve a twin purpose; firstly to facilitate the provision of basic instruction in shoulder arthroscopy to trainees and consultants new to the field, and secondly through faculty dialogue to demonstrate and validate new techniques in a practical way. Using the successful model of the Swiss AO group, a series of structured courses was developed, going from the very basics (anatomy, examination, diagnostic imaging) to the principles of shoulder arthroscopy (equipment, setup, orientation, triangulation, recognition of pathology) and then progression to surgical intervention with an emphasis on practicality.