Healthy Athletes Program Supports Success On and Off the Court

According to research by Special Olympics International, on an average team of 10 Special Olympics athletes:

*Four have untreated tooth decay
*One needs an urgent referral to a dentist
*Four need eyeglasses
*Three would fail a hearing test
*Nine have problems with flexibility or balance
*Seven are overweight or obese

Special Olympics Nevada is dedicated to helping athletes perform at their best, both on and off the court, and is working to combat these issues with the Healthy Athletes program. The program is dedicated to providing health services and education to Special Olympics athletes and also building awareness for healthcare providers on different ways to treat and interact with individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Despite a mistaken belief that people with intellectual disabilities receive the same or better health care than others, they typically receive sub-standard care, or virtually no health care at all. They also often have trouble identifying or communicating issues with their health in a manner understood by general healthcare providers. Special Olympics International has taken this to heart and has now provided more than 1.7 million free health examinations in more than 130 counties. In the process, Special Olympics has become the largest global health organization dedicated to serving people with intellectual disabilities.

In Nevada, the Healthy Athletes program recently shined at the Southern Nevada Regional Basketball Competition in North Las Vegas. The health event was held in conjunction with the tournament, giving hundreds of athletes from the Las Vegas area, Henderson, Mesquite and Pahrump the opportunity to participate.

Special Smiles was a featured partner at the recent Healthy Athletes event. Special Smiles provides comprehensive oral health care information, including offering free dental screenings and instructions on correct brushing and flossing techniques. Led by Clinical Director Civon Gewelbeer, DDS, the Special Smiles services benefited nearly 50 athletes during the event. Dr. Gewelbeer serves as the director of the UNLV Special Care Dental Clinic for Adults with Disabilities and recruited volunteer professionals from around the region along with dental students at UNLV to conduct the screenings.

Along with Special Smiles, the recent Healthy Athletes event featured the services of MedFest. MedFest was created to offer the physical exam that all athletes need prior to participating in Special Olympics sports programming. It is sometimes the first exposure the athletes have to proper medical care and, in many cases, life-threatening conditions have been found and subsequently treated thanks to MedFest. Led by volunteer physicians, nurses, physician assistants, and medical students, the MedFest screening consisted of: medical history, height and weight, blood pressure, cardiology test, musculoskeletal test, orthopedic tests, abdominal evaluation, and more. Dr. Lo Fu Tan, clinical director for MedFest, recruited associates from Southwest Medical to assist him with the event. They gave 35 physical exams to individuals to qualify them for participation in Special Olympics Nevada.