CPMA Member Podiatrists Ensure Fit Feet at the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles

CPMA Member Podiatrists Ensure Fit Feet at the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles

Up to 50 percent of Special Olympics athletes experience one or more preventable or treatable foot conditions that can affect their sports participation according to The Special Olympics' Fit Feet of North America


Over 6,500 athletes from 177 nations recently descended upon the Los Angeles metropolitan area for eight days of competition and camaraderie at the Special Olympics World Games 2015 (July 25 to August 2).

Marc Colaluce, DPM; Victoria Foley, DPM; Timothy Dutra, DPM and Rebecca Moellmer, DPM

Officially opened by First Lady Michelle Obama, this event was the largest international sporting competition held in Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympics, and the Los Angeles Coliseum was once again filled up with thousands of athletes wearing their countries’ colors and waving their flags proudly. Special Olympics combines sporting events with health screenings to make sure its competitors are in top shape for the week’s events. Prior to competition, all athletes receive a physical exam at Medfest; during the competition athletes are encouraged to be a part of the Healthy Athletes screenings. Healthy Athletes took over McCarthy quad at the University of Southern California with a bevy of tents dedicated to holistic care of the athletes including balance testing at Funfitness, dental exams and treatments at Special Smiles, vision exams and glasses at Opening Eyes courtesy of the Lions Club, hearing tests and serum extractions at Healthy Hearing, nutrition and lifestyle balance at Health Promotions, and foot and gait screenings at Fit Feet.

Fit Feet was started as a Healthy Athletes program in 2002 by Dr. Pat Nunan, a podiatric physician, and it has since has grown to be included in Special Olympics games around the world. Fit Feet consists of shoe and sock evaluation, feet measurement, routine dermatology exam, basic neurovascular exam, basic musculoskeletal exam, and a gait exam. If any pathology is found, the athletes will get a document stating what was found and who to see when they return home. As Special Olympics International’s data has shown, about 63% of the athlete population wear and compete in the wrong sized shoes[1], as well as the wrong type of shoe for their individual sport.

“A shoe too big may slow them down, make them move awkwardly, and cause blisters or irritation from the foot moving too much in the shoe. Likewise, a shoe too small can also cause blisters and be uncomfortable, slowing the athlete down. Prolonged use of shoes too small may also lead to deformities such as bunions and hammertoes,” says Dr. Rebecca Moellmer, a podiatric physician and surgeon on faculty at the College of Podiatric Medicine at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, CA, and one of the many CPMA members who volunteered their time and medical expertise during The Games.

Dr. Jennifer A. D’Amico, a podiatric physician, met a team from Africa that told her the shoes that were provided by the Fit Feet to all the athletes were the first pair of shoes they had gotten as a team!

“The tents were open from 11am to 7pm, and the local and international volunteer podiatric physicians, orthopedic surgeons, physiatrists, and physical therapists screened over 800 athletes a day,” Dr. D’Amico stated. “The teamwork that is exhibited by mostly strangers is a testament to the fact that when like-minded individuals with similarly big hearts get together nothing is impossible.”

Having seen the media coverage of Special Olympics on ESPN and local television, Dr. Ami Sheth, President of the California Podiatric Medical Association, also agreed with Dr. D’Amico. “It's amazing to see how many athletes are participating and what kind of impact podiatric medicine is having. I was so proud of our participation as a profession and as an association in this event when I was watching some of the coverage on ESPN. It is amazing how hard everyone trains for this. What better way than to volunteer to make sure these athletes are participating safely? For me it's about knowledge that they and their families will take with them as they continue on in their lives, and the experience is so rewarding for the students and attendings.”

The 2015 Special Olympics flame is now extinguished.  But, will burn anew in 2017 at the Special Olympics Special World Winter Games in Austria.

Founded in 1912, the California Podiatric Medical Association (CPMA) is the leading and recognized professional organization for California’s doctors of podiatric medicine (DPMs). DPMs are podiatric physicians and surgeons, also known as podiatrists, qualified by their long and rigorous education, training and experience to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the foot, ankle and structures of the leg.

CPMA - Keeping Californians on their Feet – Healthy, Active and Productive.