When organizers of the 2017 Invictus Games asked Jason White to serve at the event in Toronto last month, he didn’t hesitate to say yes. Founded by Prince Harry of the British Royal Family in 2014, Invictus is a Paralympic-style, multi-sport competition for wounded, ill or injured armed services personnel and veterans. “It was important to me to be involved, because our military services have always stood behind us, and it was an opportunity for me to give back,” says White, who volunteered as a Lead Medical Practitioner.
In his role, White put in nine to 11 hour days at the sledge hockey and golf competitions, and in between those events, he provided medical support to athletes from all over the world at the Sheraton Hotel – the de facto athletes’ village – in downtown Toronto. He was part of the team supporting the largest Invictus Games to date, with over 550 competitors from 17 nations competing in 12 sports. Sledge hockey, also called para ice hockey, was a demonstration sport at this year’s Invictus, giving White the chance to work with players who, in some cases, had never been on the ice before. White says treating para-athletes does require some unique consideration. Sledge hockey players use sticks with dagger-like picks on the end to propel themselves, and their sleds, across the ice. An athlete who is paralyzed might not feel a poke in the abdomen from one of those picks, and need treatment after a cut goes unnoticed. But whatever the concern, White’s priority is making sure all athletes reach their goals.
“Our military services have always stood behind us. This was an opportunity for me to give back.”
White typically devotes 12 weeks each year to supporting Canadian high-performance athletes. He’s represented Canada at six international games, and has served Canadian athletes on 16 tours at home and abroad, in sports ranging from sledge hockey to rugby and beach volleyball. “I enjoy the Games aspect of my professional life, and also find being part of them personally rewarding,” he says. “Being part of a Games medical team has helped build my skill set, by exposing me to a diverse range of injuries which, in turn, makes me more effective in treating patients at my clinic in Toronto.”
The athletes he has worked with are enthusiastic when discussing his attributes. Steve Arsenault, a competitor on Canada’s sledge hockey team, says “Jason has taken the time to understand athletes with disabilities and their sport. I have never met any therapist more caring about individual athletes.” Kelly Russell, a Canadian Rugby Olympian, says “As a high performance athlete, competing for Canada over the past 12 years, I can honestly say that Jason is one of the best.”
After graduating from Sheridan, White also earned a diploma in Massage Therapy, certificates in acupuncture, Craniosacral, Neural Manipulation and Visceral Manipulation, and Sports Massage. Now, alongside his extensive volunteer commitments, he has also built a successful private practice based at Physiohealth Studios in downtown Toronto. He treats a wide range of clientele, from weekend warriors to patients who need to resolve longstanding health issues. Linda Murdough, who suffered a neck injury as a teenager, underwent years of physiotherapy and chiropractic care without significant progress. “After a couple of years working with Jason, I gained full flexibility in my neck to an extent I never imagined possible,” she says. “He has a rare gift, and his empathy and ability to build a connection with his clients is exceptional.”
Next February, White will take those skills to the world stage again, when he joins Canada’s Core Health and Science Team at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. So, how does he balance extended periods of time away with maintaining his private practice? “I plan ahead. I prepare home treatment programs for many of my patients, and I also count on support from my colleagues,” he explains. “I enjoy the travel and the professional experience, and I manage my life and commitments to make it all possible.”
Written by Susan Atkinson, Manager of Communications and Media Relations at Sheridan.