Special Olympics of Arizona Soccer TeamSpecial Olympics of Arizona Soccer Team

Healthy Athletes

Providing health screenings and education

Special Olympics Arizona Healthy Athletes is dedicated to providing health screenings and education to our athletes while changing the way future health professionals interact with people with intellectual disabilities.

Special Olympics is the world’s largest public health organization for people with intellectual disabilities, providing access to free health services for a population with significant, unmet health needs. Often, those with intellectual disabilities and their families don’t understand what is needed to optimize their health. Healthy Athletes provides accessible information, resources, systems and policies at the individual, community, national and global levels that support them in realizing sustainable healthy and productive lives.

Special Olympics Arizona Healthy Athletes is dedicated to providing health screenings and education to our athletes while changing the way future health professionals interact with people with intellectual disabilities.

Healthy Athletes works to improve access to healthcare for Special Olympics Arizona’s athletes through the use of state-wide event-based screenings. Healthy Athletes events are used to assess the health needs of athletes and partners, make referrals to local health practitioners when appropriate, and train both healthcare professionals and students about the specific needs for treating people with intellectual disabilities (ID). Healthy Athletes also works to collect, analyze, and disseminate data on the health state and needs for people with ID as well as advocating for improved health policies and programs for people with ID. During Healthy Athletes events, people with ID, Special Olympics Athletes, Unified Partners and Young Athletes (ages 2-8) receive a variety of health services in a fun and welcoming environment, at zero cost. Our impact on the health and well-being of SOAZ Athletes is great, in some cases saving lives by discovering unknown health issues or providing health care that otherwise would not be available.. Screenings are offered in eight different health disciplines.


Fit Feet: Special Olympics Fit Feet offers screenings to evaluate ankles, feet, lower extremity biomechanics, and proper shoe and sock gear to participating athletes. Fit Feet helps Special Olympics athletes step lively on the playing field, and in everyday life. Many athletes suffer from foot and ankle pain, or deformities that impair their performance.

In fact, up to 50 percent of Special Olympics athletes experience one or more preventable or treatable foot conditions that can affect their sports participation. Often, these individuals are not fitted with the best shoes and socks for their particular sport. During Fit Feet events, volunteer foot healthcare specialists work with athletes to evaluate problems of the feet, ankles and lower extremity biomechanics.

FUNFitness: FUNfitness is the physical therapy discipline of Special Olympics Healthy Athletes ® that addresses the ongoing health needs of Special Olympics (SO) athletes. FUNfitness provides athletes the opportunity to be screened for flexibility of hamstring, calf, shoulder rotator and hip flexor muscles; functional strength of the abdominal and lower extremity muscles; and balance. During these screenings physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and physical therapist or physical therapist assistant students work with athletes and coaches to improve optimal function in sports training and competition, prevention of or reduced risk for injury and recommending exercises and other helpful strategies.

Health Promotion: Health Promotion, a discipline of Special Olympics Healthy Athletes, focuses on healthy living, healthy lifestyle choices, and nation-specific health issues. In addition to health education activities, health Promotion offers screenings for bone density, blood pressure, and body mass index (BMI). Its goals include encouraging and enhancing healthy behaviors and improving self-efficacy and self-advocacy.

Special Smiles: The Special Smiles discipline of Healthy Athletes provides comprehensive oral health care information, including offering free dental screenings and instructions on correct brushing and flossing techniques to participating Special Olympics athletes. This resource page is equipped with manuals and forms, event resources and Special Smiles stories and additional information. Special Smiles has demonstrated remarkable success in creating awareness and improving access to dental care for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

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Strong Minds: Strong Minds is an interactive learning activity focused on developing adaptive coping skills. Competition provides a natural opportunity to develop active strategies for maintaining emotional wellness under stress, such as: thinking positive thoughts, releasing stress and connecting with others.

Strong Minds Activity Cards

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 these athletes have to medical care. 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 consists of the following stations: medical history, height and weight, blood pressure, cardiology test, musculoskeletal test, orthopedic tests, abdominal evaluation, and a check out station.

Opening Eyes: The Special Olympics Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes program is changing lives in communities across the globe by providing comprehensive eye assessments, prescription eyewear, sunglasses and sports goggles to Special Olympics athletes and people with intellectual disabilities in general. After going through 12 testing stations, the exam information is reviewed and a decision is made if the athlete needs a new pair of prescription glasses or sport goggles.

Healthy Hearing: The Healthy Hearing discipline of Healthy Athletes provides comprehensive hearing screenings and follow-up recommendations. The main goals of this program are to inform athletes, parents, coaches or caregivers about the detection of possible ear and hearing problems, recommend follow-up as needed, and to promote the necessity of regular ear and hearing screenings.


Presented By

Summer Burgess
Sr. Coordinator, Health Programs

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