Hannah Wengertsman, Head Athletic Trainer and Physical Therapist for the Phoenix Mercury since 2020, has a unique background, skillset and role here in the Valley.
Wengertsman, whose father was in the military, grew up moving all over the country. She and her family would uproot to a new location every two years, even living abroad for several years in England and Peru.
“I lived all over which I really think helped make me adaptable and flexible, which you have to be for this kind of job, especially with the travel and the crazy schedule,” said Wengertsman.
Wengertsman grew up running track and cross-country which led to her passion for physical therapy and athletic training early on.
“I was an athlete in high school and had several injuries myself and spent a lot of time in the athletic training room, I think that’s what really sparked my interest at the beginning.”
As a long-distance runner, she was no stranger to overuse injuries, suffering her share of stress fractures – an injury she says is particularly common in female athletes. Her time in the training room rehabbing these types of injuries inspired her to want to work with female athletes.
Knowing exactly what she wanted to do going into college, Wengertsman wasted no time and enrolled at Boston University in the combined BS/DPT program, which allows students to earn their bachelor’s degree and become a licensed physical therapist in six years, rather than the usual seven.
During her time at BU, Wengertsman honed her craft and diversified her skill set by working with more than 25 different teams, including teams from neighboring schools like Boston College, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in athletic training in 2016 and a doctorate in physical therapy in 2018 – a unique combination that sets her apart from many of her peers in the industry.
“I think I have a kind of unique mixed skillset because I have both degrees, so I really love that I see an athlete from the time an injury happened all the way through to their return to play.”
Wengertsman explained how athletic trainers – the ones you see on the sidelines – deal primarily with the diagnosis and acute management of injuries during the game, while physical therapists work more behind the scenes, focusing on athletes’ rehabilitation, return to play and long-term injuries.
Getting to do both roles and being with an athlete through their entire journey back from injury is one of the things Wengertsman finds most rewarding about her job.
“My everyday responsibilities cover a wide range of things. Anything medical having to do with Mercury players is usually something I handle, so whether it’s treatment before practice, rehabbing an injury, setting up a doctor’s appointment or even packing all of the medical equipment we need to take on the road trip, there’s a huge range of things that I do, and it really depends on the day.”
While Wengertsman works primarily with the Mercury, she also gets the unique opportunity of helping the Suns and assisting with the rehab of injured players who stay behind on road trips.
“I’m so fortunate to be part of this organization specifically because there are not a lot of WNBA teams that are so closely knit with an NBA team. It really does feel like one family. So being able to bounce ideas off the Suns’ staff and shadow them, I’ve learned a ton from them in my last three seasons here. That’s something I’ll always be grateful for, having that staff to work with and the opportunities to just continue to learn and grow alongside them, especially during the offseason.”
This is not the only unique opportunity that has come Wengertsman’s way since she arrived in the Valley. Back in the fall, she was chosen to be part of Team USA’s athletic training staff for the 2022 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in Australia.
Wengertsman returned to Phoenix with more than just great experience under her belt.
“It was a huge honor to be able to work with USA Basketball, especially on the world stage in something like the FIBA World Cup. And then bringing home a gold medal was even more special. A huge sense of pride for our country and women’s basketball players in general. Being able to bring home a gold medal is something I’ll never forget.”
For Wengertsman, getting to work with some of the best female basketball players in the world – both with the Mercury and Team USA – and seeing the women’s game grow has been a privilege.
“I’m a huge advocate for women’s sports and I think the WNBA is just continuing to grow. I’ve seen the evolution over the last three years so I’m excited about what’s ahead for the league.”
“The players of the WNBA are the best women’s basketball players in the world, but they’re also advocates in their communities and they’re just really involved – I love to see what they do off the court too. They’re an inspiring group of women and I’m so humbled and honored that I get to work with them every day.”
Working closely with any team forges family-like bonds, but Wengertsman particularly enjoys being in basketball where the team and staff are smaller and more intimate.
“I think what makes it so rewarding is just getting to know the players on such a personal level. They feel like an extension of my family, which makes it so fun to come to work every day.”
Mercury guard Shey Peddy – who is rehabbing a ruptured Achilles tendon – walked by during the conversation with Wengertsman.
“BEST TRAINER EVER!” she shouts with a huge smile on her face.
Wengertsman already has her gold medal and this year, she’ll look to bring not one, but two championships to the Valley – one ankle taping, injury evaluation and rehab exercise at a time.