Special Olympics logo.

Healthy Athletes

Special Olympics, Golisano Foundation and CDC logos.Healthy Athletes is a worldwide health program through which Special Olympics volunteers and partners improve the health of people with intellectual disabilities and address health conditions such as chronic pain, disease, blindness, hearing loss, and shortened life span that needlessly affect this under-served population.

Special Olympics Health is made possible by the Golisano Foundation in collaboration with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and PreventionThe mark “CDC is owned by the US Dept. of Health and Human Services and is used with permission. Use of this logo is not an endorsement by HHS or CDC of any particular product, service, or enterprise.

What Makes Up Healthy Athletes?

There are eight Healthy Athlete screening areas:

Logo of a person doing jumping jacks with the word "FUN Fitness"
Logo of an apple with the words "Health Promotion."
Logo of a sound wave with the words "Healthy Hearing."
Logo of a smile with the words "Special Smiles."
Logo of an eye with the words "Opening Eyes."
Logo of a stethescope with the words "Medfest."
Logo of a person's head with a heart for a brain with the words "Strong Minds."
Special Olympics Fit Feet heading.

Under the Fit Feet program, volunteer health care professionals screen athletes’ feet and ankles for deformities, skin, and nail problems, and also check for proper shoes and socks.  Clinicians make community referrals as needed and athletes, coaches, and families are educated on the proper shoes and socks.

Clinician Requirements: Doctor of Podiatric Medicine

Currently offered by SOSD

Special Olympics FUNfitness heading.

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

Clinician Requirements: Licensed Physical Therapist

Currently offered by SOSD

Special Olympics Health Promotion heading.

Perhaps the basis of all components of Special Olympics Healthy Ahtletes, Health Promotion seeks to find the best ways to convey and reinforce key concepts and information to participants.  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, sun safety, smoking cessation, lifestyle choices, and fun ways to increase physical fitness.

Clinician Requirements: Dietician, Physician, Nurse, PT, Health Educator


Special Olympics Healthy Hearing heading.

The purpose of Healthy Hearing is to screen the hearing of athletes and notify athletes and their coaches if follow-up care is needed.  Healthy Hearing venues may also provide corrective (hearing aids) and preventative (custom swim earplugs) services where possible, and study the prevalence of hearing loss in athletes competing in Special Olympics events.

Clinician Requirements: Audiologist or Speech-Language Pathologist

Currently offered by SOSD 

Special Olympics Special Smiles heading.

At a Special Smiles screening, Special Olympics athletes are provided with hygiene education, a “goody-bag” containing toothbrush, toothpaste and floss, nutritional education, and a free mouth guard.

Clinician Requirements: Licensed Dentist or Dental Hygienist

Currently offered by SOSD 

Special Olympics Opening Eyes heading.

The mission of Special Olympics – Lions Club International Opening Eyes is to improve the quality of life for the millions of individuals diagnosed with intellectual disabilities by health and visual skills through quality eye care.  Under the Opening Eyes program, extensive vision screenings are conducted.  Athletes are then provided with free prescription eye glasses, sport wear glasses, and sunglasses as warranted.

Clinician Requirements:  Vision Care Professional, Licensed Optometrist or Ophthamologist

Special Olympics MedFest heading.

Medfest is a screening program that facilitates the required standard sports physical examination for current and prospective Special Olympics athletes.

Clinician Requirements: Medical Doctor, Physician

Special Olympics Strong Minds heading.

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. Athletes learn about and try a few different active coping strategies as they move through the stations. Before exiting, athletes identify the strategies they like best and volunteers provide them with visual reminders to use these tools in competition and in daily life.

Clinician Requirements: Psychologist, Licensed Counselor, Social Worker

Currently offered by SOSD 

We currently conduct Fit Feet, FUNfitness, Healthy Hearing, Strong Minds, and Special Smiles clinics during our State Summer Games. We are actively working toward offering screenings in all eight Healthy Athlete areas.

Interested in getting involved with Healthy Athletes? Please contact Johna Thum at 605.331.4117 or jthum@sosd.org.

For more information, visit the Healthy Athletes page on the Special Olympics website.

Fit 5 Club logo.

Physical fitness is a key part of the Special Olympics mission. Fitness is more than training for a sports season, it means staying physically active and practicing good nutrition and hydration habits year-round and lifelong. Athletes and teams across the state have been putting in the time and effort to improve their health and fitness through our Fit 5 programming and clubs.

Picture of a smiling Ashley Clark wearing athletic gear and the words "Feeling Fabulous."
Hi! I’m Ashley Clark and I am a Special Olympics athlete with the Sioux Falls Fireworks. About 2 years ago, I felt tired all the time, my clothes didn’t fit, and it was becoming harder and harder to play my sports at the level I wanted to. It didn’t happen over-night, but the results of practicing more healthy habits was a 20 pound weight loss… I am feeling FABULOUS!
This is what worked for me:
Eating out less. I’m not saying never, but when I do eat smaller portions and meals. For example, a single burger is way better for me than the super-sized meal. 
Restaurant portions are what they are. I eat until I start to feel full and then stop. I almost always take home some of my meal for the next day.
Drinking water. A LOT of water. In fact, I no longer drink soda at all.
Making better food choices. You will always find fruits, salad fixings, and vegetables in my shopping cart. There might be a pizza hiding in there as well, but those foods are for “sometimes.” The good foods are for most all the time!
I hope you find your fabulous life, as well!