By Grace Lucuab, DPT

The Special Olympics USA Games was held in Seattle from July 1 to July 6. These games take place every four years, and this year more than 4,000 athletes and coaches from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, competed in Seattle and the Greater Seattle area. Athletes participated in 14 different sports, and approximately 10,000 volunteers were recruited to help support these Games, and I was fortunate to be a part of it.

I was happy to help the Special Olympics by supporting their Healthy Athletes program. The program offers health services and education to the Special Olympic athletes, helping change the way our health systems interact with people of intellectual and physical disabilities. There are 7 disciplines: Fit Feet, FUNfitness (where I participated), Health Promotion, Health Hearing, Opening Eyes, Special Smiles, and Strong Minds.

The FUNfitness program is supported by physical therapists, physical therapy assistants, and students of the physical therapy field. We examined the flexibility of the athletes’ hamstrings, calves, shoulders and rotator cuffs, and hip flexor muscles. We assessed the functional strength of their abdominals and lower extremities. We tested their functional capacity for cardiovascular endurance and stability for balance. Once the athletes completed these examinations, they were educated on appropriate exercises to assist in the areas that they had difficulty performing or affecting their ability to participate in their sporting event.

While working with these athletes, I learned that many of them had multiple events in one day, had a full schedule of touring Seattle, and had to practice, all while participating in dinners and events. For some of the athletes, the games were their first plane ride, their first national competition, and their first time working with a physical therapist. The event was a great place to meet people from different professions, meet the eager students wanting to help, and for me to learn the different tests done for the athletes. It was a busy day and time flew by, but there are a lot of great memories made. If you would like to volunteer for the Special Olympics, Washington State has their local games coming up August 17-19, 2018.

Learn more on their website: http://specialolympicswashington.org/event/2018-summer-games/