GROTON -- Almost one year to the day of its groundbreaking, the Nashoba Sports and Physical Therapy center formally welcomed the public last week.

Nashoba Sports and Physical Therapy, which has been open for two months, is a local extension of the largest private network of health providers in America, Steward Health Care, a physician-run group. The relocated practice at 788 Boston Road features all levels of family and general medicine in the east wing; and offers a wide variety of therapies and rehabilitative options from cutting edge to traditional equipment in the west side.

The 50 or so attendees to the ribbon-cutting included staff, corporate executives, patients and curious residents from the area.

Lauren Bennett of Wilmington, a student at University of Massachusetts Lowell, demonstrates therapeutic exercises that can be done inside the Hydroworx
Lauren Bennett of Wilmington, a student at University of Massachusetts Lowell, demonstrates therapeutic exercises that can be done inside the Hydroworx tank.
The 8,000 square feet is the highlight of the new facility, which replaces the older one across the street at 1 Forge Village Road.

"We had been cramped in that old space for so long," said Dr. Stephany Godfrey, an osteopath from Westford. "It feels great to have some room to move around freely. We have more than 2,000 patients."

Even the reception area is expanded and the new facility has an on-site lab draw, is handicap accessible and can accommodate far more patients per day than the older facility.

"The old office was like a closet," said Dr. Paul Harasimowicz. "This is tremendous. Our therapists took a hands-on approach to designing the space. I am excited for them and for the community they serve, the Harvard orthopedist said.


But Dr. Sal Perla, president of the Nashoba Valley Medical Center, had a different take during his brief address to the crowd. "It's not so much the building that makes this special, as it is the people inside of it."

The two clinics, Nashoba Sports & Physical Therapy and Nashoba Family Medicine, will operate under the umbrella of Nashoba Valley Medical Center. The building is divided between the two clinics and staffing is independent. Only the family medical side, with its 14 employees including four physicians, is open now. The sports medicine clinic is fully equipped and manned, waiting only for state licensure, which is expected shortly.

Some advanced scientific gadgetry ready for use will help physical therapists treat who visit there. From new-wave underwater treadmill and high-tech virtual reality to simple resistance machines, the sports medicine clinic is fully outfitted to manage nearly every type of ailment or rehabilitation.

The virtual reality room is staffed by physical therapist Peter Brouillard of Ayer.

The subject puts on the VR headset and Brouillard talks them through a series of commands.

"Point the controller at the skeleton to the part of your body that hurts."

Then, when that body-part shows up in detail he guides them onto the next step. "Now point at the specific spot."

Once the person has identified the area of concern, they are then sent to a place within the virtual world that has a series of challenges.

For example, if the shoulder needs therapy then the person is sent to a virtual kingdom where bows and arrows are the common weapon. "Now load your bow. Pull ba ck on the string. Shoot the arrow," he says. Repeat.

As the patient kills the fictional enemy, his/her shoulder is being stretched and strengthened per doctor's therapy orders.

The 750-gallon Hydroworx water tank, which has a variable-speed treadmill at the bottom, is another new addition to the gear. In it, patients can do a variety of mobility exercises -- arm or leg raises, running, twisting -- without any impact on fragile bones and joints.

Gary Donia, a staff therapist, said, "Along with being very effective, It is completely hygienic. After each use the water is drained into a holding tank where it is heated, filtered and sanitized before being returned to the equipment." The exchange takes only a few minutes.

There are some more typical therapy items in the vast central room: weighted medicine balls, weightless stretching balls, weights, pullies, mats and machines are scattered around the space which also includes two large televisions and a tempered music broadcast.