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HEALTHY ATHLETES
INITIATIVES > Healthy Athletes

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The mission of Special Olympics Healthy Athletes®, developed in 1996, is to improve athletes' ability to train and compete in Special Olympics. Healthy Athletes is designed to help Special Olympics athletes improve their health and fitness, leading to enhanced sports experience and improved well-being.

During a Healthy Athletes event, Special Olympics athletes receive a variety of health screenings and services in a series of clinics conducted in a welcoming, fun environment. Health care professionals and students are trained to provide the screenings in an effort to educate the professional community about the health needs and abilities of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The key objectives of Special Olympics Healthy Athletes are:
  • Improve access and health care for Special Olympics athletes at event-based health screenings
  • Make referrals to local health practitioners when appropriate
  • Train health care professionals and students in the health professions about the needs and care of people with intellectual disabilities
  • Collect, analyze and dessiminate data on the health status and needs of people with intellectual disabilities
  • Advocate for improved health policies and programs for person with intellectual disabilities.

The Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Initiative includes these disciplines:

Healthy Athletes Resources

Fit Feet

Many Special Olympics athletes suffer from foot and ankle pain or deformities that impair their performance. Also, athletes are not always fitted with the best shoes and socks for their particular sport. During Special Olympics competitions, volunteer health care professionals screen athletes' feet and ankles for deformities, and also check for proper shoes and socks.

FUNFitness

FUNfitness is the comprehensive physical therapy component of the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes initiative. FUNfitness is designed to assess and improve flexibility, functional strength and balance; to educate participants, families and coaches about the importance of flexibility, strength and balance; and to provide a hands-on opportunity for participants to learn about physical therapy.

Health Promotion

Health Promotion venues empower and motivate athletes to make healthy lifestyle choices that will improve their long-term health by using interactive educational games and literature. Athletes are offered guides for healthy eating, lifestyle choices, fun ways to increase physical fitness as well as information (content varies with the health needs of the population) on topics such as tobacco avoidance, sun safety and skin care. Health screenings at Games include BMI and bone mineral density (BMD) measurements. Note that osteopenia and osteoporosis appear to be more frequent among people with disabilities, especially Down syndrome. Download these Adobe pamphlets that outline Healthy Athlete promotions:
  • H20 to Go - Drinking water helps you stay healthy and energized
  • Give Me 5 - Eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily
  • Bone Builders - Be good to your bones
  • Sun Safety - protect yourself and effectively block dangerous UV rays

Healthy Hearing

Healthy Hearing is the audiological component to the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program that screens athletes and provides corrective (hearing aids) and preventative (custom swim earplugs) services where possible. During a Healthy Hearing screening, athletes are directed through two registration/checkout desks and four screening stations. Many Special Olympics athletes require only the first two stations, examining the ear canals for cerumen (earwax) and an otoacoustic (OAE) hearing screening of both ears.

Opening Eyes

Objectives of Opening Eyes includes providing screenings to Special Olympics athletes; educating athletes, parents and coaches about the importance of regular eye care; educating and changing attitudes of eye care professionals about the vision care needs of persons with intellectual disabilities worldwide; and increasing knowledge of visual and eye health needs of persons with intellectual disabilities through research.

Special Smiles

Special Olympics Special Smiles is one of the core components of the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes initiative, created to focus attention on the overall health issues facing Special Olympics athletes. The mission of Special Smiles is to increase access to dental care for Special Olympics athletes, as well as all people with intellectual disabilities. The athletes are provided with hygiene education to help ensure they are doing an adequate job of brushing and flossing, as well as nutritional education to understand how their diet affects their total health.

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As a contributor, you are the springboard for the vision of Special Olympics, helping our athletes better themselves and learn valuable lessons.

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