Growing up in Geelong, Jess was diagnosed with a rare eye disease, cone dystrophy, when she was 17 years old. It caused her to lose much of her eyesight and she is now classified as legally blind – but that hasn’t stopped her from achieving amazing things.
Jess Gallagher is the first and only Australian athlete (Olympic or Paralympic) to win both Summer and Winter Paralympic medals. She’s a Board Director at Vision 2020 Ausrtalia, ambassador for a number of not-for-profit organisations, a highly sought after motivational speaker…. and she’s also a fully qualified osteopath.
The multi talented athlete has represented Australia in 3 sports. alpine skiing, athletics and most recently track cycling.
In 2010 at the Vancouver Winter Paralympics Jess became the first Australian women to win a Winter Paralympics medal when she won bronze in the Slalom. She won her second Paralympic medal at the 2014 Sochi Winter Paralympics another bronze, this time in the Giant Slalom. At the 2016 Rio Paralympics she won bronze in the 1km Time Trial on the tandem
Meet Jess Gallagher from Liforce Osteopathy, Malvern, Victoria.
How has your osteopathy background helped your athletic training?
It has helped immensely, in particular for the complexities of transitioning my body from one sport to another where there’s a high risk of injury. I have an incredible understanding of how my body works, its strengths, weaknesses and most importantly how hard I can push it and when I need to slow down. It gives me a deeper understanding of the physiological and biomechanical aspects of my sports, which allows me greater ability to be the best I can be. My experience as an athlete has also significantly enhanced my knowledge when treating patients, in particular other athletes.
Why did you choose to study osteopathy?
Growing up playing as much sport as I did, sports medicine was something that interested me. When researching the differing professions I came across osteo and just fell in love with the philosophy. When I lost the majority of my eyesight it gave me an incredible perspective on life at a young age and the osteopathic philosophy of being whole really felt like it embodied who I am as a person and what I believe in. It seemed like a natural fit. I love that there are so many varying techniques that give the body such a diverse range of tools to help it heal, and that I get to use my hands to help others – not my eyesight.
How does your vision impairment affect your services as an osteopath? Do you feel limited or does it heighten your sense of touch?
I don’t feel limited at all being an osteopath with low vision. I do have heightened senses so my palpation skills were naturally advanced along with my hearing. When I was studying my biggest concern was writing clinical notes and reading x-rays, etc., but by the time I graduated they were all online, which means I can use my laptop and adaptive technology to enlarge notes to the size I need. Using the HICAPS/ EFTPOS machine for payments is probably the hardest part, but I have a device that magnifies for spot reading so I utilise this. All the kids think it’s an old-school Game Boy and are very disappointed when I explain what it actually is!
Originally published: http://www.osteopathy.org.au/pages/jessica-gallagher.html