Special Olympics International began the Healthy Athletes Initiative in 1996. The mission is to improve, through better health and fitness, the athlete's ability to train and compete. To reach this goal programs involving dentistry, optometry, audiology, health promotion and physical therapy came together to provide services at Special Olympics events. The program provides training for health care professionals and students about the special needs of patients with mental disabilities.
Special Olympics Kentucky at the present time offers four healthy athlete programs: Special Smiles, Opening Eyes, Healthy Hearing, FUNfitness and Fit Feet . The programs are conducted at the SOKY Summer Games each June.
Opening Eyes first saw athletes in 2001. Dr. Bill Reynolds is the clinical director and with the assistance of local Lions Clubs, athletes receive quality vision care. Athletes are screened by volunteers to identify if the athlete needs additional care or may benefit from new glasses. Prescription Sports goggles are also made available to the athletes.
Special Smiles began seeing athletes in 1997 with the help of the Kentucky Dental Health Coalition. The Coalition strives to provide a positive dental experience to the athletes. Instruction on proper brushing and flossing techniques along with dental sealants are provided.
FUNfitness came aboard in 2003. It is a physical therapy screening program developed by the American Physical Therapy Association to work in partnership with the Healthy Athletes Program created by Special Olympics. The screening consists of tests for flexibility of hamstrings, calf muscle group, anterior hip muscle group and functional shoulder rotation. It is the goal of FUNfitness to provide screening that identifies how athletes can improve their performance in their sport(s) and prevent injuries.
Fit Feet was added to the Special Olympics Kentucky Healthy Athletes lineup in 2004. The program, developed through Special Olympics’ collaboration with the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, provides podiatric screenings for Special Olympics athletes, many of whom suffer from foot and ankle pain or deformities that hinder their performance. The screeners check for deformities and also help to recommend the best shoes and socks for a particular sport.
is the newest addition to the Special Olympics Kentucky Healthy Athletes Program. It made its first appearance at the State Summer Games in 2009. Special Olympics Healthy Hearing program is a free hearing screening designed to ensure proper audiological care for participating Special Olympics athletes. Led by volunteer professionals, Healthy Hearing also provides tests for cerumen (ear wax) and otoacoustic emissions tests.
For more information about the Healthy Athletes Program, please contact: Kim Satterwhite, Vice President of Programs, at 800-633-7403 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.