Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Initiatives helps athletes to improve their training and competition by focusing on overall health and fitness. This is achieved through basic health screenings during Special Olympics events, provision of preventative and treatment services, educational information, and referrals for follow-up care. Athletes have enhanced sports experiences and improved well-being as a result of receiving critical health services.
Healthy Athletes includes several disciplines: Fit Feet, FUNfitness, Health Promotion, Healthy Hearing, Opening Eyes® and Special Smiles®, as well as MedFest, a program that facilitates the required standard sports physical examination for current and prospective Special Olympics athletes.
In Nigeria, the following Healthy Athletes disciplines are currently in operation: Opening Eyes®, (Supported by Lions Club International, this initiative is designed to assist athletes with eye related issues and after necessary examination are provided with prescription glasses.) Special Smiles®, (Designed to cater for athletes dental needs and hygiene) MedFest (This is a total general body screening excersise) FUNfitness,(the physical therapy discipline of Special Olympics Healthy Athletes ® that addresses the ongoing health needs of Special Olympics (SO) athletes) as well as Healthy Hearing, (a program designed to ensure proper audiological care for current and prospective Special Olympics Nigeria athletes).
MedFest is a Special Olympics Healthy Athletes screening program that facilitates the required standard sports physical examination for current and prospective Special Olympics athletes. The Special Olympics General Rules require that all athletes who want to participate in Special Olympics must be examined by a physician or trained medical professional who completes the ‘medical certification’ section of the Athlete Registration Form. With the help of local volunteer health care professionals, MedFest provides people with intellectual disabilities the chance to participate in year-round Special Olympics sports training and athletic competition. The physical examinations at MedFest are conducted by volunteer medical professionals and are free to current and prospective athletes. Exams include: Registration and assessments of medical history; height and weight; blood pressure; cardiovascular; abdominal; musculoskeletal evaluation; and check-out/referral for follow-up care. MedFest exams also address questions and concerns of athletes’ parents and guardians.
“To be a healthy athlete, one must be able to see the finish line.” – Timothy Shriver, Chairman, Special Olympics. The mission of Special Olympics – Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes is to improve the quality of life of individuals diagnosed with intellectual disabilities by optimizing their vision, eye health and visual skills through quality eye care. The objectives of Opening Eyes include:
Special Olympics Special Smiles has demonstrated remarkable success in its mission: increasing access to dental care for Special Olympics athletes, as well as all people with intellectual disabilities. Dental screenings are used as a means to increase awareness of the state of the athletes’ oral health for the athletes themselves, as well as their parents and/or caregivers. Providing solutions to chronic dental problems, or providing an athlete with a mouth guard, can enhance the athlete’s performance. At a Special Smiles screening, Special Olympics athletes are provided with the following:
Special Olympics Healthy Hearing programme is a free hearing screening designed to ensure proper audiological care for participating Special Olympics athletes. Led by volunteer professionals, Healthy Hearing provides tests for cerumen (ear wax) and an otoacoustic emissions tests. Reduced hearing can have a significant negative impact upon a Special Olympics athlete’s ability to respond to directions in training, as well as understand other oral information from coaches, trainers and judges. The safety of the athlete also can be impeded by a hearing loss, as can the athlete’s interpersonal relationships. Screening of hearing is the first step in the process of identifying an athlete’s hearing loss and preventing its negative effects from occurring in sporting and social events. The purpose of Healthy Hearing is to:
FUNfitness is a Special Olympics Healthy Athletes screening programme that facilitates and restores movement with its function to current and prospective Special Olympics athletes with intellectual disabilities through series of physiotherapy examination. As a mandatory platform, all Special Olympics athletes who want to participate go through a screening exercise which is championed by seasoned/trained physiotherapists who complete the ‘medical certification’ section of the Athlete Registration Form with the assistance of local volunteer health care professionals. FUNfitness provides people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to participate in all round body fitness development evaluation; limbs strengthening, joints straightening, muscles stretching, mental alertness and check-out/referral for follow-up care. It addresses questions and concerns of athletes’ parents and guardians. FUNfitness undergoes the following physical examination by volunteer medical professionals and is free to all current and prospective athletes. Examinations include registration and assessments of medical history; use of wheelchair/assistive device/wears splint or brace; history of any disease/injuries that may affect screening results; flexibility of hamstring, calf, hip, and shoulder; balance; aerobic fitness. Benefits to the community FUNfitness provides people with intellectual disabilities:
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