When competing at the 2018 Special Olympics Canada Games in Antigonish, Canadian athletes on the St. F.X. campus wanted to be performing at their best. The many medical professionals with the Healthy Athletes program were on hand to make sure that was a reality.
Based in the Gerald Schwartz School of Business building, Healthy Athletes served as a series of clinics that took into account the many dimensions of health for the athletes in the games.
The Gerald Schwartz building was bustling throughout the week, as athletes from the provinces and territories availed themselves of a variety of medical services.
Alison Legenza-Anderson, manager of programs with Healthy Athletes, said several specialty areas were covered in the clinics, including Opening Eyes, Fun Fitness, Healthy Healing, Fit Feet and Special Smiles.
“The athletes have the opportunity to attend one, two – if they want, all – of the screenings, which have been adapted to meet the needs of athletes,” Legenza-Anderson said. “They can get quite a few of their needs tended to upstairs.”
By Friday, Legenza-Anderson said 1,100 screenings had taken place. She noted the programs are particularly important, because in a lot of cases, the athletes are unable to access those services in their home communities.
“The screenings are super-important for many of the athletes – especially those who have had negative experiences in their communities, seeing doctors or dentists, to the point where some of them avoid going,” Legenza-Anderson said.
“Yesterday, we met one athlete who was in his 40s, who had never been to a dentist before. We’ve had athletes who didn’t know they couldn’t hear the start gun, or couldn’t hear their coach’s instructions. We have athletes who have seen the finish line for the first time.”
Healthy Athletes included numerous medical services provided to athletes throughout the week, like on-site production and provision of prescription eye glasses, sports goggles and sun glasses for those in need.
“They get their fitness testing done at Fun Fitness, which is great. They are sent home with all kinds of activities they can do to help improve their fitness,” Legenza-Anderson said.
At Special Smiles, athletes were equipped with fitted mouth guards.
At Fit Feet, athletes were given foot screenings to make sure they were on steady footing, and given socks and other items to make sure they kept in stride throughout the week.
Legenza-Anderson said that throughout the week, the athletes were encouraged to visit the Schwartz building. Chef de missions for each team were given schedules, specifically so they could more easily plan times to visit the clinics during downtime through the week, between their events.
“We try to break (the schedule) up evenly, so every athlete had an opportunity,” she said.