Students help Special Olympics athletes focus on wellness

Topics: College of Applied Sciences and Technology, Immersive Learning

June 19, 2008

Special Olympics Summer Games
Amy Perkins, right, conducts a bone density scan on an athlete during the Special Olympics Indiana Summer Games, which took place at Indiana State University June 6-8.
Athletes competing in the Special Olympics will have the opportunity to lead more healthful lives overall, thanks to Ball State University's College of Applied Sciences and Technology.

When the Special Olympics staff needed help with the Healthy Athletes initiative, they called Carol Friesen, associate professor of nutrition, to help spearhead the effort.

Healthy Athletes is a national program intended to improve the health and well-being of the competitors. During the Indiana games June 6-8, Friesen coordinated the efforts of five students who conducted bone density assessments, body fat analysis, body mass index calculations, dietary assessments and nutrition education lessons.

"Helping the special athletes was the most wonderful feeling that I have ever had," Friesen said. "This terrific immersive learning experience will result in Ball State entering all the data into the national Special Olympics database. We will contribute at the national level to a data collection system being created to help identify specific programmatic areas where we can help the special athletes, who range in age from 8 to 70."

Already, the initial analysis of more than 200 athletes has yielded some startling results, she added.

"Surprisingly, there are an exceptionally high number of athletes who smoke and are overweight," Friesen said. "Now that we have this research, we hope to work with the Special Olympics to create and design programs to increase awareness for the athletes as well as the people who manage the homes in which the athletes live."

The students participating in the initiative were:

  • Kimbra Brockman, Coldwater, Ohio
  • Amy Perkins, Fort Wayne, Ind.
  • Terri Weiss, Morgantown, Ind.
  • Valerie Amend, Sheridan, Ind.
  • Andrea Liegibel, Indianapolis
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