Healthy Athletes

The Special Olympics Healthy Athletes initiative offers basic health screenings and services to athletes.

These services are delivered by qualified medical staff in a fun and welcoming way. Referral to specialised practitioners for further assessment and care is made as required.

People with intellectual disabilities are one of the largest and most medically underserved populations. Because of a range of systemic challenges, including inadequate provider training and inaccessible facilities, they have less access to quality health care.

As a result, people with intellectual disabilities experience dramatically higher rates of preventable disease, chronic pain and suffering, and premature death.

Meeting the health needs for people with intellectual disabilities would reduce disparities, lower health care costs and ensure social justice.

Interested in volunteering as a health professional?

If you are a healthcare professional who may be interested in donating some of your time to help our athletes, Special Olympics New Zealand would love to hear from you.

Find out more about volunteering for Healthy Athletes

Fit Feet offers podiatric screenings to evaluate ankles, feet, lower extremity bio-mechanics, and proper shoe and sock gear to participating athletes. Many athletes suffer from foot and ankle pain, or deformities that impair their performance.

Up to 50% of Special Olympics athletes experience one or more preventable or treatable foot conditions that can affect their sports participation.

Often, these individuals are not wearing the most appropriate shoes and socks for their sport. To alleviate these problems, volunteer foot specialists work with athletes to evaluate problems of the feet, ankles and lower extremity bio-mechanics.

The Special Olympics Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes programme is changing lives in communities across the globe, providing free eye assessments, prescription eyewear, sunglasses and sports goggles to people with intellectual disabilities.

Up to 23% of Special Olympics Athletes have never had an eye exam and 36% need new prescription glasses.

The programme also aims at raising eye care professionals’ awareness of vision and eye health concerns of people with intellectual disabilities, including difficulties involved in accessing treatment.

Healthy Hearing is changing lives in communities by providing free hearing screenings and other medical services.

The amount of ear problems and hearing loss among Special Olympics athletes is greater than that found in the general population with up to 40% experiencing hearing difficulties.

Most athletes’ hearing problems are previously undetected, unserved or under-treated. Hearing loss negatively impacts communication ability, quality of life, social interactions and health.

Special Smiles provides comprehensive oral health care information, offers free dental screenings and instructions on correct brushing and flossing techniques to Special Olympics athletes.

Up to 52% of athletes have preventable dental problems from pain to decay, Special Smiles helps Athletes take charge of their oral health through education and resources.

Special Smiles provides dental screenings, personal oral hygiene instruction, sport mouth guards to help prevent dental injuries to athletes competing in contact sports; and fluoride varnish treatment for tens of thousands of athletes worldwide.

Health Promotion focuses on healthy living, healthy lifestyle choices, and health-specific issues. In addition to health education activities, Health Promotion offers screenings for bone density, blood pressure, and body mass index. Its goals include encouraging and enhancing healthy behaviours and improving self-efficacy and self-advocacy.

Special Olympics athletes have limited knowledge of sufficient health practices and many suffer from potentially serious health issues that are more common than in the general population.

Health Promotion is by design fun, interactive, positive and engaging. In this environment, we help athletes learn how small changes in their behavior can help them improve and maintain good health and sports performance.

Volunteer with Healthy Athletes!

People with intellectual disabilities have more healthcare needs than the general population. In addition, sometimes people with intellectual disabilities don’t realize when they are unwell and don’t take appropriate action or seek medical care. By screening athletes at events, we can help keep them healthy!

If you are a healthcare professional who would like to donate some of your time to help our athletes, Special Olympics New Zealand would love to hear from you.

Contact our Healthy Athletes Programme Manager at

These services are delivered by qualified medical staff in a fun and welcoming way. This programme is offered at National Games and some regional events.

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