Indiana State University
Indiana State’s Doctor of Physical Therapy students will partner with the American Physical Therapy Association to provide healthy athlete and fitness screenings to participants in Indiana Special Olympics events on June 10.
“We have volunteered before as a cohort of students, first- and second-year student, and conducted some health screenings and help athletes participate in their given sport, but this year our students and faculty will participate in Healthy Athletes FUNfitness, which will be offered for the first time as part of Indiana Special Olympics,” said Brittney Millspaugh-Storms, assistant professor in the department of applied medicine and rehabilitation.
Healthy Athletes FUNfitness will allow about 40 students, eight faculty and some local clinicians to provide Special Olympics athletes with basic physical fitness services, including range-of-motion assessments, balance assessments and strength and endurance testing, for up to 500 special needs athletes in the Olympics Village.
The program allows physical therapists and physical therapy students to educate athletes on risk prevention as well as make recommendations to help guide athletes to their optimal function so that the athletes can train and compete safely. First-year students and some advanced students in the program will attend a training on June 6 to prepare to work with the athletes.
“(Healthy Athletes FUNfitness) is already pretty common at Special Olympics events in other states, but the athletes in Indiana have never had the opportunity until this year,” Millspaugh-Storms said. “This also will be our students’ first chance to be hands-on working with the public, an experience they will get within two weeks of starting school.”
Howell Tapley, Indiana State’s physical therapy program director, and Stasia Tapley, director of clinical education, were recently appointed co-state clinical directors for FUNfitness at Special Olympics Indiana. The two State professors are responsible for coordinating all activities related to the event, including volunteer recruitment and training.
“Some of these Special Olympians have coaches and train several days a week. They’re serious athletes, but even those who train and have coaches can still have limited access to proper medical care,” Stasia Tapley said. “Working with these athletes is just the kind of opportunity we prepare students for. Our program really embraces the mission to serve rural and underserved populations, and this opportunity will have us get students in front of a special population within a few days of their first day of class.”
This will be a chance for third-year Doctor of Physical Therapy student Jacob Vogel of Zionsville and his classmates to test their skills with individuals who have actual pathologies.
“A lot of times we’re practicing on ourselves in class, so things are pretty normal,” Vogel said. “But this is an opportunity to be hands-on and lets us see what physical therapy needs are required for the special needs population.”
Exposure to a new client population is one of many reasons working with Special Olympics is a beneficial learning experience.
“It isn’t very common for students to have access to this population of patients,” Millspaugh-Storms said. “It is fairly common to see special needs adults and children when you get out and start practicing, though, and we want our students to have experience with it while they are in our program.”