Paralympic Medalist Inspires Barrow Patients Through Mentorship Program

Scott Hogsett was a 19-year-old college freshman preparing for baseball season when he was pushed from a patio deck during a Super Bowl party in Washington and broke his neck, rendering him a C5-6 quadriplegic.

“When I first got injured, it was an extremely dark moment because I had no idea what to expect,” he said. “I thought my life was over.”

Far from it.

Now, the 43 year old is a 3-time paralympic medalist in wheelchair rugby, captain of the national champion Phoenix Heat wheelchair rugby team, and the father of a 6-year-old boy.

“It knocked me down, but it didn’t knock me out,” he said of his injury. “I’ve accomplished more in a wheelchair than most able bodies do.”

Scott Hogsett
Barrow Connector

Hogsett’s determination is something he tries to instill in others with spinal cord injuries through the Barrow Connector Peer Mentorship Program. Hogsett estimates he’s worked with more than 500 patients and their families in his two decades as a mentor.

“Barrow has the best therapists, but they only know what the book has taught them; they don’t live in a disabled person’s shoes,” Hogsett said. “Everyone needs a mentor to let them know what they can do instead of what they can’t do.”

Jo Crawford, coordinator of the Barrow Connection outreach program, said more than 50 trained Barrow Connectors are currently helping patients adjust to living with a disability.

“Our Barrow Connectors include those who have survived traumatic brain injury, stroke, and spinal cord injury and are living an active life,” she said. “They truly understand the journey these patients are on, and they can relate to the struggles and successes along the way.”

Crawford said what makes Barrow’s mentorship program unique is that the mentors reach out to newly injured patients, and then provide the patients with resources and support once the patients are ready.

“We want our patients to be successful long after they leave the hospital, and this mentorship program helps make that happen,” she said.

Some of the people Hogsett has mentored are now his teammates on the Phoenix Heat, which is sponsored by Barrow, and are peer mentors themselves.

“It’s awesome to be able to have that relationship where we peer mentor those patients and then, once they are out of the hospital, they come straight to the team,” he said.

Hogsett’s recreational therapist in Washington first introduced him to wheelchair rugby, but he didn’t think much of it until after he moved to the Phoenix Metropolitan Area.

There is so much out there that you can do. A lot of it has to do with how badly you want it.

Scott Hogsett, Barrow Connector

After he arrived in the Valley, his friend Eddie Alexander encouraged him to pursue the sport. Alexander broke his neck in an all-terrain vehicle accident in 1984 when he was 17 years old. He began racing cars in 2006 and participates in the Barrow Connection’s Driving to Excel event at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving every year.

“I don’t know where I’d be without wheelchair rugby,” Hogsett said. “In the beginning, it was one of the hardest sports I’d ever played. I was an athlete before my injury, but any time you work in a disability with learning a sport, it’s the ultimate challenge.”

Hogsett was part of Team USA for three Paralympic games. He took home a bronze medal in 2004, a gold medal in 2008, and another bronze medal in 2012. Hogsett retired from the team to spend more time with his wife and son, but he still sees coaching in his future.

“Wheelchair rugby has meant a lot to me,” he said. “It’s taken me all over the world. I’ve accomplished a lot and grown up a lot because of the sport.”

He continues to encourage others with spinal cord injuries to be active rather than watch life from the sidelines.

“It’s so cliché to say, ‘Play the hand that you’re dealt,’ but you never know unless you try,” he said. “There is so much out there that you can do. A lot of it has to do with how badly you want it.”