Skip to content

Practice takes Barrie chiropractor all over the world tending to athletes (6 photos)

Dr. Bob Willson's work in sport has taken him from Atlanta to Australia and even bombing down a bobsleigh track, but 'it’s so hard to pick and choose (special memories) because there are so many'

If there’s an exciting side to being a chiropractor, Dr. Bob has found it and then some.

Barrie-based Dr. Bob Willson has been helping residents  and world-class athletes -bend, kneel, reach and run since he opened High St. Chiropractic in 1987.

It was a vision realized when he first laid eyes on the old Queen’s Park-area building, after receiving his bachelor of human kinetics (1978) and doctor of chiropractic (1987). He’s also received the Fellowship in Chiropractic Sports Sciences and the Fellowship of the International Chiropractic College.

Over the years, the now-66-year-old Willson has worked his chiro and sports medicine magic with everyone from youngsters and the elderly to national competitors and others representing Canada on the Olympic stage.

He was front and centre with the Canadian teams in Atlanta in 1996 and then Sydney, Australia in 2000. Then there were the '92 Commonwealth Games and the 1997 and 2000 Women's World Hockey Championships, where he was chair of Canada’s medical team for both tournaments.

“That was a big starter because there was no prior history of a chiropractor being a chair of medical,” Willson tells BarrieToday. “I developed a multi-disciplinary team and made sure that chiropractic was included.

“The women’s chair that helped bring (Canada) the world’s both times was very helpful in bringing me on because I’d done so much work for Ontario women’s hockey," he says. 

And then there was the lacrosse 2003 Founder's Cup and 2004 Senior 'B' President's Cup.

High St. Chiropractic also offers sports injury and rehab services, massage therapy and chiropody.

Going on almost 30 years ago now, though, getting chiropractic legitimized at the Olympics was top of mind for Willson, beginning with the ’96 event in Atlanta.

He was one of two Canadians on an organizing committee  travelling to Atlanta three or four times a year for three years leading up to the Olympic Games  to include chiropractic as a ‘main-body’ member on the host medical team.

“The host chief medical officer had embraced it,” Willson says. “However, at the ninth hour, the president of the IOC (Juan Antonio Samaranch), for whatever reason, canned it.

“So we had to set up our last-minute clinic just outside the gates to the Olympic Village. Back then we were ad hoc and pioneers,” he says. “And, of course, there was the bomb that went off near the front gates. That was kind of scary.”

But by the time Sydney rolled around, the IOC had come around and Willson’s efforts were vindicated.

“It was awesome,” he says. “The Sydney Olympics were probably the most empowering for me because I was one of the first two Canadian chiropractors in that capacity for the Canadian team. I got to work with all different sports.

“There were other chiropractors there in other capacities with other organizations or with a specific athlete, but we were there on the core medical team.”

Another huge memory from those Olympic Games was working with wrestler Daniel Igali, Willson says. Igali was Canada's first-ever gold medallist in Olympic wrestling with his win in Sydney.

“He ended up on a box of Wheaties. All his money went back to his siblings in Nigeria. He was just a wonderful kid,” Willson adds. “He actually won gold with a disc injury. I was treating him at 11 o’clock the night before he wrestled.”

Other opportunities over the years would surface, providing more moments of excitement and memories.

“It’s so hard to pick and choose because there are so many,” Willson says with a laugh.

One involved a phone call that led to a face-contorting bobsled ride.

After taking over some duties for a friend with the bobsledding and luge teams for Olympics Canada in 2005, his frequent flyer miles jumped. He was flown to Lake Placid for the World Cup and then came home, and then went to Innsbruk, Austria and from there to Cortina, Italy, where the coach had arranged a little surprise: a bobsleigh ride.

“It was unbelievably fast, a crazy experience,” Willson says with a chuckle. “It was hang on for dear life. I felt like I was doing G-forces because I would feel my cheeks rattling in and out, like when you see someone in a wind tunnel.”

After he’d gathered his wits it was off to Germany and the Königssee bobsleigh, luge and skeleton track.

“It was an exciting year,” he says.

Much closer to home, Willson was in on the ground floor of an expanding local hockey franchise and was with the Barrie Colts Junior 'B' club in 1987-88 until their inaugural Ontario Hockey League season.

Many former Colts, other hockey players and athletes and their families still rely on High St. Chiropractic.

“There were lots of local Colts and lacrosse kids and some of them I’m still treating, and treating their kids now, too,” Willson says.

“I’ve had one family of four generations. In my very early years with the Colts, say ’87 or ’88, I treated a gentleman and his wife who were probably my dad’s age. Then I started treating their daughter and her husband and then she had four children and one of them had children.”