Special Olympics hosts Healthy Athletes Fair

Swimmer Kanza Bodden undergoes 'Fun Fitness' screening at the Healthy Athletes Fair.

It was a hive of activity at Mary Miller Hall last Saturday (7 October) as Special Olympics Cayman Islands (SOCI) athletes were provided with a variety of free health screenings.

The Healthy Athletes Fair has become a regular event on the SOCI calendar and focuses on four key areas: Special Smiles (dental), Fun Fitness (physiotherapy and fitness assessments), Health Promotion (checking blood pressure, height, weight, etc), and Healthy Hearing (testing athletes’ hearing).

“It’s incredibly important [that we do this each year]. This is an entirely free event. All of the clinicians and volunteers have given up their time. We know that athletes and people with disabilities have a worse off healthcare,” said SOCI board member and general practitioner Dr Sarah Cuff.

“It is assumed they have better access to care and are better treated but in fact, the evidence is directly the opposite. So, it’s even more important that these events are offered,” she added.


Kristina Maxwell demonstrates exercises to a participant.


In all 42 athletes were screened at the one-day event this year, which also provided screenings for Lighthouse School students. Parents were also invited to actively participate and soak up any knowledge that could help them in day-to-day life.

Physiotherapist Kristina Maxwell took the lead as the Clinical Director for the Fun Fitness segment of the fair, which focused on strength, flexibility, balance and other reasons why you would normally go to a physiotherapist.

“Everybody coming through here is an athlete in some shape or form – even if they don’t participate in a sport, they play at school and stuff like that. So, having a strong core is essential to all of their limbs working correctly. This is important whether you’re an athlete or not,” she said.

“A lot of the athletes don’t have a primary care physician, or maybe have never been to physiotherapy. So, it’s helping us screen to see what deficits there are and if something falls out of the norm, then we can refer them appropriately,” Ms Maxwell added.

A case in point is SOCI swimmer Kanza Bodden. Three years ago, she showed up for the screenings and it was at that point that orthopaedic surgeon Dr Frank Smith discovered issues with her hips.

“Because of that appointment here, Kanza has had two hip operations and is now able to be much more mobile. We don’t need wheelchairs at the airports anymore,” said Kanza’s mother, Nancy Bodden.

“People with Down Syndrome have a very high tolerance of pain. She wasn’t even in pain but it needed to be done and it was perfect timing – we got it done just between the childhood and adult stage. It was a godsend that they had the orthopaedic doctor that year.”


The team from A Step Ahead Physiotherapy works with an athlete.


In recent years, global professional services firm Aon has taken the lead on putting the event together.

“It’s very rewarding. Especially something like this where healthcare isn’t really accessible to everyone and that so many people are willing to volunteer and make sure that these athletes get the attention that they need is really nice,” said Aon representative Jessica Powell, who has been part of the fair for the past five years.

Other volunteer specialists were drawn from the Health Services Authority, Health City Cayman Islands, A Step Ahead Physiotherapy, along with other volunteers from EY, Lions Club of Grand Cayman, Rotaract Blue and Kiwanis, in addition to regular SOCI volunteers.

Maxine Everson of Special Olympics Cayman Islands has seen the event grow over the years. She said she would like to see the event continue to build in the years ahead.

“The community support is fantastic. The number of clinicians who have come out and the support of the community to spend the time with us is great. We can’t ask for better corporate sponsors,” she said.

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