August 2000 Bulletin

State societies aid Special Olympics games

State orthopaedic societies followed up on the AAOS’s successful participation in the Special Olympics in 1999, and played a supporting role in their state’s Special Olympics events this year.

The Special Olympics are held for children and adults with mental retardation and gives them the chance to test their athletic limits. Those behind the event know that Special Olympics athletes, like all athletes, must first be healthy before they can become effective competitors. The AAOS initiated a Healthy Athletes program at the 1999 event. The objective is to increase access to health care for Special Olympics athletes, collect and analyze data about health conditions of people with mental retardation and increase public and professional awareness.

In May, the Pennsylvania Orthopaedic Society joined in the Alleghany County Summer Games held at a Pittsburgh high school.

"We held a foot and ankle screening all day, from 9 a.m. until 4 that afternoon, when the games ended," said Beth Weachter, associate director. "What was best about the event is that it was good for the athletes, and I think the awards meant so much because they really rewarded hard work. I spent most of the day in the [foot and ankle screening] tent, so I didn’t get to see a lot of what else was going on."

Weachter said that eight volunteer doctors and many athletic trainers screened about 200 children inside a tent. She singled out Stephen Conti, MD, of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center as the key force in getting the society involved. The Special Olympics is a yearly event in Pennsylvania, and according to Weachter, the orthopaedic group will probably participate again next year.

The Tennessee Orthopaedic Society and the Campbell Clinic provided orthopaedic Healthy Athletes screenings to roughly 180 children from April 27 to 29. "It was such a positive experience," said Paul Bigger, executive director of the Tennessee Orthopaedic Society. A team of 10 orthopaedic surgeons and athletic trainers evaluated feet and ankles as well as footwear and handed out information. Bigger said the Tennessee society plans to build a safe playground in Memphis later this year, a worthy project that will cost the society about $55,000 to undertake. "The Special Olympics are not a great expense, but our budget is small," said Bigger. "On the other hand, this was a very rewarding event."

Diane Przepiorski, executive director of the California Orthopaedic Association, would agree. She reports that in her state, everyone enjoyed the dividends from the event, which was held over a weekend, from June 2 to 4 in San Diego. The success for the association, she added, was due to the hard work and resolve of Steven Trasonsky, MD.

"We had never participated in this event before," said Przepiorski, "but Dr. Trasonsky knew just what to do, and we are so thankful for the huge effort that he put forth. He recruited 15 orthopaedic surgeons to volunteer over the course of the weekend."

They all came with an earnest desire to help. They had two major functions. They provided first aid, as a handful of minor injuries occurred on the playing fields, and they answered questions, providing information about musculoskeletal conditions "The event was really worthwhile," said Przepiorski. "My daughter and I took turns watching the booth, so it wasn’t a big strain on the organization." If they participate again next year, they will consider providing screenings.

In New Jersey, a thunderous storm the night before the event seemed to portend trouble for the Special Olympics. But the weather went from bad to nice, and it was ideal by the next day.

"The whole event was a huge success," said Linda Bartolo, executive director of the New Jersey Orthopaedic Society. "This was only our first time, so we are very excited about future prospects."

More than 55 physicians volunteered to screen a total of 505 athletes on June 3-4 at the College of New Jersey in Trenton. "Our chairman was Vincent McInerney, MD," said Bartolo, "and he did such a great job of recruiting volunteers.

"The physician volunteers were wonderful," said Bartolo. "They worked so hard all day doing the screenings that I don’t think they had a chance to see the Olympics."

Home Previous Page