NewsCovering Colorado


Physical shortage impacts Special Olympic athletes

Doctor's office
Posted at 9:24 PM, Sep 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-28 00:13:58-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — 550 athletes with disabilities won’t be able to play a fall sport in El Paso County this year because they were not able to get a physical in time to participate. They’re hoping they can at least get a physical in time to play in the state competition.

State games for fall Special Olympics will be held in November.

Randee Van Ness is the mother of three athletes with disabilities. But this fall, her kids have been benched from playing the sports they love.

“To be able to turn to my kid and say I’m sorry, you can’t play to me is just horrible,” said Van Ness.

This comes after Van Ness was told her kids didn’t sign up in time to get a physical.

“It was so hard to get an appointment, especially for something like a sports physical. Doctors only had so many hours open. It was such a glut coming this year,” said Van Ness.

Van Ness plans to take her kids to the Peak Vista Community Health Centers Developmental Disabilities Health Center in Colorado Springs.

This is where most local athletes with disabilities go to be seen for a physical. And now the waitlist to be seen is long.

“We booked back in June to get our physical for fall sports. They can’t see her until January,” said Van Ness.

News5 reached out to Peak Vista to see what is causing the long wait for sports physicals.

They say the center is feeling the impact of the national healthcare worker shortage.

“The Peak Vista Community Health Centers Developmental Disabilities Health Center has been experiencing a decrease in provider staff. The DDHC is currently down one provider; however, the center is still able to provide services to all of our patients, though wait times for appointments may be a bit longer than usual. As is the case with health care systems nationally, PVCHC is experiencing staffing shortages, but continues to actively recruit staff to best serve our patients,” said Peak Vista Community Health Centers in a statement to News5.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hospitals are down 95,600 employees since February of 2020, limiting the number of staff who can give physicals.

The news that she cannot play is especially hard for Van Ness’s daughter, Sarah, who has a passion for playing volleyball.

“It’s everything. It means a lot…Playing with the team, having fun with your friends and it’s really good,” said Sarah Van Ness.

Sarah isn’t the only waitlisted athlete struggling.

“I would hate to not be able to play, especially with the new athletes coming in, I would be devastated,” said Samuel James III.

Those coaching these athletes are also disappointed. They feel like these athletes with disabilities are missing out on life lessons taught through athletics.

“When they don’t have these athlete physicals, it really keeps them not only from having the athlete experience but getting so much more beyond that,” said Kyle Kemper, a local coach.

The Skills Academy Vocational Center is trying to help. The center has invited local nurses, doctors and p.a.’s to give physicals on Oct. 1st from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

This will take place at the Skills Academy Vocational Center in Colorado Springs. But they can only take up to 25 athletes with disabilities because they are short staffed. Anyone who wants to sign up to give physicals should give them a call.


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