Invictus Veteran Dave Henson MBE found focus through sport and beyond!

Former Veteran and Paralympic athlete Dave Henson found sport and competition as a way to focus his rehabilitation and achieve success in life.

Dave, 36 from Southampton became an amputee during his service with the British military, which resulted in the loss of both his legs; one through the knee and the other above the knee. Dave spent a lot of time following his injury in rehabilitation under the care of Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre (DMRC), Headley Court where he learned to walk again. The rehabilitation protocol at the DMRC places a high focus on physical rehabilitation.

This is often emphasised through sport and Dave found his passion and focus learning to run again, using running blades. “I maintained a focus during my rehabilitation that I would try and get to the highest fitness standards I could—comparable to before I lost my legs”, says Dave.  In the years that followed, he progressed to a level of fitness that met the standards for the Army’s fitness test, which he says, “Was a huge psychological achievement given my new physical condition.”

Shortly after, Dave led Team GB at the inaugural Invictus Games in London during 2014. Invictus Games is a sports competition for wounded, injured or sick veterans and service personnel from many countries around the world, and the games took place at the Olympic Park in London in 2014. ‘It was a huge honour to be made the UK team captain”, says Dave. He went on to win a gold medal in the 200m sprint during the games and truly led by example. Following the Invictus Games, Dave moved into para-athletics and competed at the World Championships in Doha, the 2016 European Championships and the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Upon Dave returning from Rio, his prosthetist introduced him to the team at Dorset Orthopaedic and Dave comments, “I haven’t looked back since.” The team at Dorset Orthopaedic were able to deliver and support Dave’s training and preparation for the 2017 and 2018 athletic seasons; supporting him through the London 2017 World Para-Athletics Championships. The dedicated team at Dorset Orthopaedic provided support for Dave while he was competing in high-level sport. He remembers, “This was essential and the team at Dorset Ortho were great throughout, providing bespoke service, often at very short notice, to enable me to keep training and competing at the same level—even delivering a complete new socket in three days at the height of the 2018 season.”

After recent major surgery on one of his residual limbs, Dave was back at Dorset where he was provided with rehabilitation sockets and continuation of the treatment needed to help him get back to walking as quickly as possible, minimising the impact of the operation on his day-to-day life.

Now fully recovered from the recent surgery, Dave is now back working as a Business Development Engineer in charge of the strategic development of prosthetic and orthotic projects in developing countries at Imperial College London. Dave says “my biggest piece of advice for people who have an amputation—whether they’ve had it for a while or are new into the process—is to be as fit as possible. Walking with a prosthesis requires a whole load more effort than someone who has all their limbs. The fitter you are and the stronger your remaining muscles are, the easier it is to get mobilising.”