Physio health screenings are a key part of major sporting games

Physiotherapists, assistants, technical instructors and physio students provided medical cover and health screenings for athletes with learning difficulties, at a major sporting event this summer.

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Physio student volunteers Denise Savage and Emma Dempsey with badminton gold medal wiiner Lloyd Crawley and, right, Alistair Beverley, clinical director for FUNfitness Special Olympics Great Britain

The volunteers were supporting the Special Olympics GB National Games, which took place in Sheffield from 7-12 August.

A core team of 10 physios were part of the medical services team dealing with sporting injuries as they happened.

And at the athletes village, another 46 helped with evening clinics, providing a free screening programme of assessments including physiotherapy, dentistry, optometry, audiology and podiatry.

These services are not readily accessed by people with intellectual disabilities, Alistair Beverley, clinical director for FUNfitness Special Olympics Great Britain, told Frontline.

‘They screen for issues in the respective areas and offer advice and treatment if required as well as signposting into healthcare services where problems haven't been addressed.’

FUNfitness screened 331 athletes during the games and the data will be compiled into a worldwide database on people with intellectual disabilities. It currently holds over 1.7million data screenings, Mr Beverley said.

‘This information can then be used to help better understand the needs of this group and hopefully assist with commissioning of services to address needs.

‘The ultimate goal of the Healthy Athletes program is that there will not be a need for screenings as all athletes will have their health needs met via mainstream services.’

Mr Beverley added: 'A secondary aim for Healthy Athletes and the Special Olympics is to leave a legacy within the local area of healthcare professionals who are better equipped, able and ready to meet the needs of this client group as a result of volunteering.'

Mr Beverley is physiotherapy manager at Portland College in Mansfield, a further education institution for disabled people.

Denise Savage added: ‘As a student physiotherapist getting hands-on experience is invaluable and this event certainly provided many opportunities to work with athletes of all ages and abilities.

‘Engaging with the athletes was fun, exciting and challenging at times but above all it has inspired me to do more for those with learning disabilities.’

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by Gary Henson

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