Triage Pilot Examines New Way to Conduct Healthy Athletes

By Stephanie Savarese

When athletes come to Healthy Athletes, they often first go to the discipline venue that is most convenient, that their friends are visiting, or offers the most interesting give-away item.

Paulette Seymour-Route (right), Dean of the University of Massachusetts Medical School's Graduate School of Nursing, helps perform screening measures during the pilot study.

Some athletes may never reach the discipline that offers the screening they need most. At an event held March 13 in Massachusetts, however, 16 Special Olympics athletes participated in a Health Triage Pilot Study designed to offer an initial evaluation and direct them to the most needed venues.

At this first-ever triage test event, athletes were taken through a pre-screen for all seven Healthy Athletes disciplines and asked a series of questions about health issues. The data gathered was used to direct the athletes to the specific disciplines that address their health issues. Athletes were also given a report card to take home that noted which areas of follow-up were needed.

The study was the combined effort of Special Olympics International (SOI), North America (SONA) and Massachusetts (SOMA), and volunteers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Graduate School of Nursing. Paulette Seymour-Route, Dean of School and Health Promotion Clinical Director, recruited many faculty and students to perform the screening measures. The experience was an effective way to combine the clinical and research interests of the nurses with the spirit of Special Olympics, according to Dean Seymour-Route.

“The ability to work with these athletes was a wonderful experience,” she said. “The students and faculty who participated commented that the engaging personalities and competitive spirit of the athletes was eye-opening.”

The Graduate School of Nursing’s involvement in SOMA is a result of an official affiliation between SOMA and the University of Massachusetts’ Medical School that began in the fall of 2008. Aside from their support of this pilot, the affiliation has brought hundreds of medical and nursing students into Special Olympics programs and it had encouraged UMASS to be steadfast in their effort to expose medical and nursing students to the population with disabilities in order to reduce their health disparities.

Massachusetts was proud to host the Health Triage Pilot, and all athletes who participated had a great day and enjoyed the attention from the medical professionals. Pilot studies like these serve as proof that Special Olympics is continuously fighting to improve the health of the individuals they serve.

Additional Triage Pilot events are planned by Special Olympics in 2010. Data from these pilots will be used to determine the reliability of the pre-screening and athlete self-assessment questionnaire, logistical considerations, and athlete and coach experience.

Stephanie Savarese is the Healthy Athletes Program Coordinator for Special Olympics Massachusetts. Her blog for SOMA on Health can be found here: