Each year, more than 4,000 South Florida athletes with intellectual disabilities compete in 17 different Special Olympics sports, including soccer, basketball, football and bowling. Although sports physicals are an important prerequisite for children who play competitive sports, people with intellectual disabilities face many roadblocks, such as lack of transportation and costs, when it comes to health physicals and preventive care.
Last fall, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital (NCH), soon to be Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, and Special Olympics Florida -Miami partnered to provide sports physicals to student athletes who are interested in participating in Special Olympics games. The physicals ensure they are in good health in order to play the competitive sports.
A screening event was held again last week at two NCH Outpatient Center locations where more than two dozen student athletes from the South Florida area received physicals. A team of physicians, nurses and both clinical and non-clinical NCH volunteers came together to offer a full array of screenings for the athletes.
“Our care teams make sure that the athletes’ vital signs are normal. We want to check that their blood pressure is normal and that they can see and hear very well. All of this is important to minimize risks when these young people participate in sports,” said Dr. Jose Rosa-Olivares, Medical Director of the Pediatric Care Center at NCH. The athletes are provided documentation of their medical clearance, while others may be provided referrals for other health and wellness screenings if needed.
The physicals are being held several times each year at many of the eight NCH Outpatient Center locations across Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. NCH is using telehealth technology to stay connected with the care teams at multiple locations during the screenings. “Through our telemedicine technology, are able to answer any questions and solve any problems with the other screening locations simultaneously,” said Dr. Rosa.
Ricky Dager is a Special Olympics athlete leader who not only participates in several of the Olympic sports but encourages and supports other athletes. “Everybody should go to the doctor so they can get checkups so they can have a smile and be happy. It is so important,” he said.