Physical Therapy Student Strengthens More Than Wheelchair Rugby Muscles

Gwen Dougherty '16,'18G started assisting the Western New York Wreckers wheelchair rugby team as a physical therapy undergrad after she saw a flyer on a professor's door.

"At the time, I was still recovering from my last ACL tear and from my decision to retire from basketball, so I was looking to get back into sports and I was also looking to continue doing volunteer work," said Dougherty. "They sort of adopted me and wouldn't give me back."

Nazareth College alum Chris Hilderbrant '99 captains and promotes the Wreckers.

"Playing wheelchair rugby has allowed me to have the competitive sports experience I was missing for the past two decades," he said.

Connecting with the Physical Therapy Department through his alma mater has benefited everyone involved. "Many students came out to help once or twice. Gwen came once, and then again, and again, and again, for over two years now," said Hilderbrant. "Gwen is a stellar volunteer. She is fearless and flexible, taking on many duties, and filling some that the team never even knew we needed. She has been a rock we could always depend on."

Dougherty became a team trainer. She travels with the Wreckers, prepares players before matches, and evaluates their techniques to help avoid repeat injuries.

"I've been involved in sports all of my life," said Dougherty. "Since working with the Wreckers, I've gained a better understanding of what it takes to actually be an athlete, and this team has become a second family to me."

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    Volunteer opportunity leads to second family.