They are the Special Olympics volunteers at every competition that you may not even see and they’re fine with that because it means you haven’t needed them. They are the medical volunteers.
Whether their services are used or not, skilled medical volunteers are vital to ensuring the safety of our athletes at every Special Olympics event.
Greg Eberle, Chairman of the Medical Committee for State Basketball Tournament and Summer Games, said medical volunteers are “more than a glorified First Aid station.” Many of medical volunteers at state-level events are athletic trainers (like Eberle), nurses or EMTs who are trained to identify certain conditions that need further aid like muscle strains and sprains, seizures and blood sugar issues.
“We are there as support staff to parents and coaches who know their athletes,” Eberle said. “We can help control the situation and ensure that no improper decisions are made,” adding that quick identification of the medical situation, treatment and follow-up for injuries of all athletes allow them to experience minimal downtime in competition.
“Fortunately, serious injuries are not common but a skilled medical volunteer makes all the difference in the world when an athlete needs assistance for both the minor and more serious types of injuries,” said Tracy Hilliard, Vice President of Sports, Training & Competition. “It is reassuring to athletes and their coach or parents to know that trained medical volunteers are there when most needed.”
While Special Olympics provides medical coverage at all events, Eberle would like to see more in the medical profession become involved with Special Olympics. “Many medical personnel have misconceptions of what it means to volunteer at Special Olympics events,” he said.
Education is key to getting qualified volunteers, Eberle continued. “We need to take a proactive approach to attracting medical volunteers, reaching out to them face-to-face and tell them ‘this is what’s involved.’”
Time commitments also are an issue, he concedes. To counter the misconception that volunteering would be a day-long commitment, Eberle has worked to break volunteer shifts into 3-hour segments. “Give us 3 hours of your time – that’s all we’re asking for. If you want to stay longer, bonus for us!”
One medical group that has made a commitment to covering Special Olympics events is Athletico Physical Therapy in the Chicago area. Amy Kaylor, Manager of Sports & Competition for Far West Suburban/Area 2, said the Area began working with Athletico about four years ago after coach Joy Pierson mentioned the firm provided athletic trainers at her high school.
Since then, Athletico has become an Area partner for both Area 2 and North Suburban Cook/Area 18. “They provide a lot of extras,” said Kaylor, including providing their own medical bags and equipment. In exchange, the Areas recognize Athletico in printed materials, display the company’s sponsor banner at events and include information about Athletico in spoken comments during events.
“Athletico is proud of our partnership with the Special Olympics,” said Susan Rowe, Manager of Athletic Training Services at Athletico. “It allows our athletic trainers to participate in a rewarding experience. We have enjoyed the opportunity to strengthen our relationship with administration, coaches, parents and most importantly participants.”
“Medical personnel are some of the most important event volunteers that we need,” said Hilliard. “Our goal is to have skilled medical personnel at every competition but sometimes this is difficult to do, so we hope that by sharing more information about actual time commitments and the variety of events throughout the year that we are successful in recruiting more volunteers.”
If you are interested in volunteering as medical personnel, please contact Greg Eberle.
By Michele Evans, Director of Communications