HEADLINES Published July30, 2015 By Bernadette Strong

Special Olympians Getting Special Health Care

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Special Olympians and their supporters at the World Games in Los Angeles.
(Photo : Rachel Murray, Getty Images)

The Special Olympics World Games, the global sports festival for people with developmental disabilities, is being held in Los Angeles with thousands of athletes from around the world. But hundreds of doctors, dentists and other health care providers are working to make sure that these athletes go home with clean bills of health - and sometimes more.

Many of the athletes come to the Special Olympics with medical problems. Some get no medical care at all in their home countries, according to the Associated Press. Often, they are competing with shoes that are too small. Many have dental problems that give them constant pain.

Healthy Athletes is a program set up on the University of Southern California's campus that consists of a temporary medical clinic. The tents of the clinic are filled with athletes and their coaches, chatting away as they wait to see health care providers. The providers are an army of volunteer doctors, dentists, optometrists, audiologists and other health professionals who are conducting all types of health checkups. Optometrists are conducting eye tests, dentists are cleaning teeth and filling cavities, and hearing is tested at an audiology clinic.

Twenty-one athletes received hearing aids for the first time in their lives, including three who couldn't hear at all until they got the hearing aids. Others are getting prescription eyeglasses and well-fitted shoes. Physical therapists are testing their strength, endurance, flexibility and other physical skills.

The organizers of Healthy Athletes are hoping to examine all 6,500 athletes before the Special Olympics ends Aug. 2. The second day the clinics were open, they saw 1,247 people coming through for healthcare. Those numbers had them scrambling the next day to order more hearing aids, eyeglass frames and other items that are being donated by health care companies. The last time the Special Olympics were held, four years ago in Korea, the program treated 1,600 athletes.

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