GENEVA, Ohio – Thirty-one first and second-year students from the University of Mount Union’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program volunteered at the Buckeye Wheelchair Games (BWG). The 7th annual event was sponsored by the Buckeye chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America (BPVA) and held at SPIRE Institute.
Events included air guns, bowling, field events, billiards, slalom, swimming, table tennis, track, boccia and weightlifting. All wheelchair athletes with spinal cord injuries or other disabilities that require wheelchairs were eligible to participate in the BWG.
Students volunteered at the swimming and weightlifting events by helping the athletes transfer from their wheelchairs to the pool or bench, and the students would act as spotters during weightlifting. They also cheered on the athletes as they competed in the events.
"I volunteered for the weightlifting competition that consisted of a one rep max in the adaptive bench press. My role during the event was to assist in transfers from the athlete's wheelchair to the bench," said Nathan Kopechek D’18. "I am a second-year physical therapy student and I wanted to experience how athletes compete with adaptive equipment and proper training to excel in their desired sport. From this experience, I learned that the athletes competing have an unbelievable drive to perform their best in the sport in which they are competing."
This is the second year that Mount Union physical therapy students volunteered at the BWG. Kristen Fouts D’18, a physical therapy student in her second year, said, "We went last year and had such an amazing time working with the athletes and putting our education into practice with transfers. It was very relevant to our Methods and Techniques II class where we learned about the different types of wheelchairs and what they are often used for. We also learned how to transfer individuals during that class and it was important to be able to put that learning into practice with individuals who are not able-bodied, especially before we went out on our first clinical experience."
After the Games, guest speakers presented to the students about adapted vehicles, driver's assessment and training for adapted driving, adapted sports and physical therapy for spinal cord injuries.
Representatives from Mobility Works of Richfield, Ohio demonstrated commercial and personal adapted vans for transporting power wheelchairs. Tony Zakrzewski, a kinesiotherapist from the Cleveland VA Medical Center who works with the driver's training program discussed adapted vehicles and adapted sports for veterans, such as hand cycling and adapted skiing.
Lastly, Ernest Switzer, a physical therapist from the Spinal Cord Unit at the Cleveland VA Medical Center spoke on different rehabilitation elements for people with spinal cord injuries. This can include assessing strength for people with neurological weakness and wound care for spinal cord injuries.
Volunteering at the BWG not only allowed students to put into practice what they learned in the classroom, but it also left a big impact on the students. "I learned about perspective," said Sobhit Haribhakti D ‘18, a second-year physical therapy student. "No matter who you are, where you are from, and what disabilities you may have, you still have that competitive edge. Volunteering at the Buckeye Wheelchair Games with the Paralyzed Veterans of America gave me a driven mindset to treat my patients to the best of my ability, because it was just astonishing what they were able to accomplish and to see the improvement in lifestyle from being active."
“This is a great opportunity for an integrated clinical experience that allows students to apply the skills they are learning in the classroom to real-world professional experiences,” said Dr. Megan Salvatore, director of clinical education and assistant professor of physical therapy at Mount Union, who coordinated the students’ participation in the event. “We have had extremely good feedback from the students who participate, as well as from the athletes and the Buckeye PVA, and so we plan to continue to volunteer annually.”
For more information about the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Mount Union, visit mountunion.edu/dpt.