GCU podiatrists to screen 1000 Special Olympians

27 July 2015

Sharon, Mandy and Martin

Sharon, Mandy and Martin

Podiatrists from GCU’s School of Health and Life Sciences are volunteering with the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes programme in Los Angeles, California.

Lecturer Mandy Abbott and BSc(Hons) Podiatry students Sharon McQuillan and Martin McCafferty will join other international volunteers to screen the foot health of over 1000 athletes with intellectual disabilities at the World Games in the Fit Feet wing of the programme.

Mandy, Clinical Director for Specials Olympics GB since 2004, said: “There are massive health inequalities among the intellectually disabled population as many, for example, have difficulty in communicating their needs, do not feel pain or are living independently and aren’t ensuring their feet are checked; we have even seen athletes wearing the wrong size shoes. So, the Healthy Athletes programme screens all areas of the athletes’ health and from that we have created a huge data base to assess health inequalities, which informs health needs and helps in the training of healthcare practitioners.”

It is the first time GCU students have joined the Special Olympics World Games screening team, although they are regular volunteers at the national games.

Mandy, who was also the podiatrist for the 1st European Games, held in Baku this summer, added: “Joining the screening team exposes our students to a population that they wouldn’t normally work with so extensively, so it helps develop skill sets in that area, and they will meet podiatrists from across the world. It will be an amazing experience.”

Both students are being sponsored by the School of Health and Life Sciences. Said Sharon: “I have heard great things about the Games and was lucky enough to be at Dublin airport in 2004, when the Games were held in the city, and the athletes were all passing through. The atmosphere stopped everyone in their tracks and since then I have wanted to be involved.”

Added Martin: “I have worked on smaller scale sporting events with intellectually disabled athletes and the feeling you get when your work puts a smile on someone’s face really builds your self-esteem. So, to take part in these Games will be a tremendous experience.”

Seven thousand athletes from 170 countries will compete in the 21 Olympic sports at the 14th Special Olympics World Summer Games.

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