Section 2.01 Eligibility for Participation in Special Olympics • Section 2.02 Registration of Athletes • Section 2.03 Use of Athletes' Names and Likenesses • Section 2.04 Releases from Athletes • Section 2.05 Participation by Persons Who Are Blood-Borne Contagious Disease Carriers • Section 2.06 Counting and Reporting Participating Athletes
Section 2.01: Eligibility for Participation in Special Olympics
2.01 (a): General Statement of Eligibility
Every person with an intellectual disability at least eight years of age is eligible to participate in Special Olympics.
2.01 (b): Age Requirements
There is no maximum age limitation for participation in Special Olympics.
- Young Athletes.
The Young Athletes program introduces children from birth to seven to fundamental movement and sports skills in age and developmentally appropriate format. This program prepares children to enter Special Olympics sports training and competition when they reach the appropriate age and stage of development.
- Children Aged 6-7.
An Accredited Program may offer age-appropriate Special Olympics Sports training for children ages six to seven. Children aged six and seven may also include local, modified, age-appropriate competition. This means that there shall not be any official results (scores, place of finish, or standings), and participants shall never travel more than 60 minutes for competition. Children under the age of 8 may also participate in age-appropriate cultural or social activities offered during the course of a Special Olympics event.
- Children Aged 8 and above.
Children aged eight and above are eligible to participate in competitions with official results and be awarded medals and ribbons recognizing their place of finish.
- Maximum Age.
There is no maximum age limitation for participation in Special Olympics.
2.01 (c): Degree of Disability
Participation in Special Olympics training and competition is open to persons with intellectual disabilities who meet the age requirements of this Section 2.01, and whether or not that person also has other mental or physical disabilities, so long as that person registers to participate in Special Olympics as required by these General Rules.
2.01 (d): Identifying Persons with Intellectual disabilities
A person is considered to have an intellectual disability for purposes of determining his or her eligibility to participate in Special Olympics if that person satisfies any one of the following requirements:
- The person has been identified by an agency or professional as having an intellectual disability as determined by their localities; or
- The person has a cognitive delay, as determined by standardized measures such as intelligent quotient or "IQ" testing or other measures which are generally accepted within the professional community in that Accredited Program's nation as being a reliable measurement of the existence of a cognitive delay; or
- The person has a closely related developmental disability. A "closely related developmental disability" means having functional limitations in both general learning (such as IQ) and adaptive skills (such as in recreation, work, independent living, self-direction, or self-care). However, persons whose functional limitations are based solely on a physical, behavioral, or emotional disability or a specific learning or sensory disability are not eligible to participate as Special Olympics athletes but may be eligible to volunteer for Special Olympics.
2.01 (e): Preserving Flexibility in Identifying Eligible Athletes
An Accredited Program may request limited permission from SOI to depart from the eligibility requirements identified in subsection (d) above if the Accredited Program believes that there are exceptional circumstances that warrant such a departure and so notify SOI in writing. SOI will consider such requests promptly but shall have the final authority in determining whether any departure or exception is appropriate.
Section 2.02: Registration of Athletes
2.02 (a): Required Procedures
Before participating in Special Olympics training and/or competition, under Section 2.01, an eligible person must register to participate with an Accredited Program. SOI may approve the policies, procedures, registration forms, and materials all Accredited Programs use for registering Special Olympics athletes. Registration as a Special Olympics athlete shall include the submission of the following:
- Athlete Registration Form,
- Medical Form; and
- Athlete Release Form
- Likeness Release
- Additional forms may include the following:
- Pre-Participation Exam Form; and/or
- Emergency Medical Care Refusal Form.
2.02 (b): Athlete Registration Form
Eligible persons desiring to register as Special Olympics athletes must complete and submit to an Accredited Program a standardized application for participation in Special Olympics that outlines the athlete's identifying information. The standardized applications used by Accredited Programs to register Special Olympics athletes are subject to SOI's approval and must conform to the form entitled the “Athlete Registration Form.” Accredited Programs may create an athlete registration form for use within their respective jurisdictions, but only if all the content prescribed by the SOI-approved form is included in the form used by the Accredited Program, and no material may be added to that form that is inconsistent with these General Rules or the other Uniform Standards.
2.02 (c): Medical Form
and contains a physician's or trained medical professional’s report and certification concerning the results of the initial physical examination required by subsection (g)(1) below.
- For World and Regional Games and SOI/Regional Sponsored Events
Athletes are required to complete the health history and the physical exam, get clearance by a licensed health professional eligible to both conduct history and physical exams for sports and prescribe medications within the jurisdiction. Athletes must then submit all forms as a component of Games registration. The medical history and exam must have been done within a maximum of 12 months of the Games, and the licensed health professional's identity, licensure, and contact information must be legible. SOI or the appropriate LOC responsible for the Games in question will provide Accredited Programs with approved medical reporting forms for this purpose.
- For Locally-led Events
(a) All Special Olympics athletes MUST complete the health history form at the time of registration, and every three years, at a minimum. The licensed health professional's identity, licensure, and contact information must be legible. (b) Special Olympics Athletes MUST also have sports physical and clearance from a licensed healthcare professional every three years unless the Program can demonstrate that their community standard is different, and collegiate and high school athletes are not required to have a sports pre-participation physical exam or unless otherwise specified by local laws. Even if the standard does not exist, we strongly recommend that the athlete get a sports physical. An Accredited Program's Board of Directors/Program Committee may impose more stringent requirements on the athletes registered by that Accredited Program concerning the frequency of required medical examinations than those which are imposed by subsection (1) above. However, no Accredited Program may dispense with the requirement that each athlete submit a health history every three years and/or be examined by a licensed or trained medical professional unless the community standard is demonstrated above or local laws prohibit the necessity.
2.02 (d): Athlete Release Form
A properly signed standardized release must be submitted to the Accredited Program on behalf of every athlete as part of the athlete registration process. The standardized release shall grant the appropriate Special Olympics entities (e.g., the Accredited Program, SOI, or a LOC) permission to make certain limited uses of an athlete's name and likeness (in accordance with Section 2.03), acknowledge the potential impact on an athlete with Down syndrome of participating in certain sports, and authorize the appropriate Special Olympics entities (e.g., the Accredited Program, SOI, or an LOC) to make arrangements for emergency medical treatment when necessary. The content and format of the release shall be subject to SOI's approval and must conform to the release form entitled "Official Special Olympics Release Form" and any supplement or amendment to that form approved by SOI (the "Athlete Release Form"). To ensure uniformity in the content of the releases that Special Olympics athletes or their parents and/or guardians are asked to sign, all Accredited Programs must use the SOI described Athlete Release Form unless otherwise authorized in writing by SOI (including any modifications required by law). The Athlete Release Form must be signed by an adult athlete or by the parent or guardian of any athlete subject to guardianship or a minor.
2.02 (e): Emergency Medical Care Refusal Form
If any athlete, the parents of a minor athlete, or guardian of an athlete has religious objections to emergency medical treatment as set forth in the Athlete Release Form, the Accredited Program may permit such athletes, parents, or guardians to delete or strike out the provisions of the Athlete Release Form which contain the authorization for emergency medical treatment (but not any other provisions of the Athlete Release Form). If authorization for emergency treatment has been stricken out, such athletes, parents, or guardians shall sign and submit a separate release form addressing how medical emergencies are to be handled (the “Emergency Medical Care Refusal Form”). The Emergency Medical Care Refusal Form must be signed by an adult athlete, by the parent of an athlete who is a minor, or by a guardian.
2.02 (f): Likeness Release Form
Accredited Programs are obligated to ensure that the Likeness Release Form is signed by each athlete and Unified Partner, or by the athlete’s and Unified Partner’s parent or guardian, before permitting that athlete and Unified Partner to participate in any Special Olympics training or competition.
2.02 (g): Physical Examination Requirements
- Examination Required as Part of Initial Registration. All athletes seeking to register for participation in Special Olympics for the first time must be medically cleared before that registration by a physician or trained medical professional who is not a physician but who is authorized or licensed under the laws of the Accredited Program's jurisdiction to perform medical examinations and make medical diagnoses (collectively, a "Licensed Medical Professional"), and have that Licensed Medical Professional complete the Athlete Medical Form.
- Subsequent Medical Examinations Required by an Accredited Program. An athlete who completes the initial registration process for participation in Special Olympics and who then continues that participation for more than one year shall be required by the relevant Accredited Program to seek follow-up medical advice before continuing his/her Special Olympics participation if that Accredited Program has a reasonable basis for believing that there has been a significant change in the athlete's health since the athlete’s most recent medical examination and certification was completed. In addition, an Accredited Program's Board of Directors/Program Committee may impose more stringent requirements on the athletes registered by that Accredited Program concerning the frequency of required medical examinations than those which are imposed by subsection (1) above. However, no Accredited Program may dispense with the requirement that each athlete be examined at least once by a Licensed or trained Medical Professional as part of his/her initial registration with Special Olympics.
- Procedures and Forms Used by Accredited Programs. Every Accredited Program shall develop procedures and use standardized forms to confirm that all registered athletes have obtained the required medical examination and obtain reports from health professionals concerning the results of any examinations required after the initial examination required for registration. All such procedures and forms shall be subject to SOI's ongoing review and approval.
- Procedures for Regional and World Games. Every athlete participating in Regional Games, Regional U.S. Games, World Games, or multi-jurisdictional single sport events shall establish that a Licensed Medical Professional has examined them within the one (1) year that immediately precedes the starting date for those Games. SOI or the appropriate LOC responsible for the Games in question will provide Accredited Programs with approved medical reporting forms for this purpose.
2.02 (h): Participation by Individuals Who Have Symptoms of Spinal Cord Compression Including Symptomatic Atlanto-axial Instability
Compression of the spinal cord at any vertebral level, including at the level of the cervical vertebrae C-1 and C-2 in the neck, known as Atlanto-axial instability (AAI), may expose individuals to possible injury if they participate in activities that radically move the vertebrae at the area of compression. Resultant hyperextension or radical flexion of the neck or upper spine could produce significant injury. Accredited Programs must take the following precautions before permitting athletes who, during a physical examination demonstrate symptoms of spinal cord compression and/or symptomatic AAI to participate in certain physical activities:
- Determination of Symptoms. All Athletes, when they receive the standard pre-participation physical examination referred to in this Article 2, must be examined by a Licensed Medical Professional for symptoms of adverse neurological effects, including those that could result from spinal cord compression or symptomatic AAI. Such symptoms may include: significant neck pain, radicular pain (localized neurological pain), weakness, numbness, spasticity (unusual “tightness” of certain muscles) or change in muscle tone, gait difficulties, hyperreflexia (highly reactive deep tendon reflexes), change in bowel or bladder function or other signs or symptoms of myelopathy (injury to the spinal cord).
- Presence of Symptoms. If a Licensed Medical Professional confirms the presence of symptomatic spinal cord compression and/or symptomatic AAI during the medical examination of an athlete, such athlete may be permitted to participate in the Special Olympics sport of the athlete’s choice only if (i) the athlete has received a thorough neurological evaluation from a physician, qualified to make such a determination, who certifies that the athlete may participate and the athlete, or the parent or guardian of a minor athlete, has signed an informed consent acknowledging they have been informed of the findings and determinations of the physician. The statements and certifications required by this subsection shall be documented and provided to Accredited Programs using the standardized form approved by SOI, entitled "Special Release for Athletes with Symptomatic Spinal Cord Compression and/or symptomatic Atlanto-axial Instability," and any revisions of that form, approved by SOI (the "Special Release Concerning Spinal Cord Compression and/or symptomatic Atlanto-axial Instability").
2.02 (i): Participation in Special Olympics Unified Sports®
Each Accredited Program shall require a person wishing to participate in Special Olympics as a Unified Sports ® Partner (as described in Section 3.11) to complete and sign a standardized application and release form approved by SOI, which shall satisfy the requirements for Class A volunteers, and shall conform to the application and release form entitled "Application for Participation in Special Olympics by a Special Olympics Unified Sports® Partner" or any amendment or supplement to that form approved by SOI (the "Special Olympics Unified Sports® Partner Release Form"). Such form shall be signed by every Special Olympics Unified Sports® Partner who is an adult or by his or her parent or guardian if that athlete is a minor.
2.02 (j): Submission of Required Forms
Accredited Programs are obligated to ensure that all application and registration materials, including, if applicable, medical reports and certifications, required by this Section 2.02 are properly completed and submitted by each athlete, or by his/her parent or guardian, before permitting that athlete to participate in any Special Olympics training or competition.
Section 2.03: Use of Athletes' Names and Likenesses
2.03 (a): Permissible Uses; Required Consents
No Accredited Program or LOC, corporate sponsor or other organizational supporter or donor of any Accredited Program or LOC, or any other party acting under the authority of an Accredited Program or LOC, may use, display, broadcast, reproduce or publish the name or likeness of any Special Olympics athlete for any purpose whatsoever, except those expressly authorized in the Athlete Release Form (according to Section 2.02 (d)) signed by or on behalf of that athlete at the time of their initial registration with Special Olympics, without obtaining a separate additional written consent from that athlete, or the parent or guardian of a minor athlete. If such separate consent is required because the proposed use of an athlete's name or likeness will go beyond the purposes permitted by the Athlete Release Form, that separate consent shall clearly identify when, where, and how the athlete's name and likeness will be used, the nature and purpose of the activity in connection with which that use will occur, including whether the activity involves the marketing or sale of commercial products or services, and what monetary benefit, if any, the Accredited Program or LOC expects to receive as a result of that activity. SOI reserves the right to prohibit an Accredited Program or LOC from using an athlete's name or likeness in ways beyond the purposes permitted by the Athlete Release Form if SOI determines that the proposed use is contrary to the best interests of Special Olympics. No Program shall knowingly permit the name or likeness of any Special Olympics athlete to be exploited for commercial purposes. SOI intentionally limits the publicity release contained in the Athlete Release Form to authorization for the use of an athlete's name, likeness, voice, and words for the purpose of promoting and publicizing the purpose of Special Olympics and/or applying for or raising funds for the support of Special Olympics programs, and does not include commercial activities or the marketing or endorsement of commercial products or services.
2.03 (b): Manner of Use
An Accredited Program must ensure that any athlete's name, likeness, voice, or words, when used by the Accredited Program or by any of its sponsors or other supporters in ways that conform to the permissions granted in the Athlete Release Form, will also be used at all times in a manner that respects the dignity of the athlete and preserves the public image of Special Olympics. Accredited Programs shall require, wherever possible, that an athlete's name be published along with his or her photo if the photograph contains a discernible likeness of that athlete and if the publication or display of both the athlete's name and likeness are otherwise permitted by that athlete's executed Athlete Release Form.
Section 2.04: Releases from Athletes
Special Olympics athletes (or the parents or guardians of Special Olympics athletes who are minors) may not be required by Accredited Programs or LOCs to sign any release or waiver as a condition for their initial or continuing participation in any Games or other Special Olympics training or competition except for the releases set forth in the Athlete Release and Likeness Release Forms, and, where applicable, the Emergency Medical Care Refusal Form and the Special Release concerning Atlantoaxial Instability. Unless otherwise approved by SOI, no Accredited Program or LOC, or any party acting on their behalf or with their authority, shall request or obtain any other type of general waiver of legal rights or release of liability from any Special Olympics athlete. The preceding sentence specifically prohibits the use of so-called "general releases" or waivers of liability by an athlete for injuries suffered by an athlete during his or her participation in Special Olympics or events held or sponsored by organizational supporters of Special Olympics.
Section 2.05: Participation by Persons Who Are Blood-Borne Contagious Disease Carriers
No Accredited Program or LOC may exclude or isolate from participation in any Special Olympics training or competition any athlete known to be a carrier of a blood-borne contagious infection or virus or otherwise discriminate against such athletes solely because of that medical condition. Given the risk that one or more Special Olympics athletes may have a blood-borne contagious infection or virus, in conducting Special Olympics training and competition events, Accredited Programs and LOCs shall follow so-called "Universal Precautions" or "Universal Blood and Body Fluid Precautions" for every exposure to any person's blood, saliva or other bodily fluid. SOI shall keep Accredited Programs apprised of the written Universal Precautions that meet this Section 2.05.
Section 2.06: Counting and Reporting Participating Athletes
A Special Olympics Athlete is currently defined as a person who: is eligible to participate; registers to participate following these General Rules; trains at an Official Sport or Recognized Sport for a minimum of eight weeks during a calendar year; and competes in a local, state, or Program Special Olympics competition according to Special Olympics standards or participates in a Motor Activities Training Program. SOI shall approve a standardized methodology pursuant to Section 5.06(b), which shall prescribe the standards and methods used by all Accredited Programs for counting and reporting on the numbers of registered and participating Special Olympics Athletes and the numbers of Unified Partners who participate in Special Olympics Unified Sports®, in their respective jurisdictions. SOI shall keep Accredited Programs regularly informed of the approved methods for counting and reporting on participating athletes through periodic written policy directives to all Accredited Programs. SOI may revise definitions, clarification, and directions as it deems appropriate (including the definition of a Special Olympics athlete) from time to time. Such revisions shall not be considered an amendment to the General Rules. In particular cases, SOI may grant particular Accredited Programs permission to depart from the standardized methodology approved by SOI if SOI is satisfied that the data which are gathered and reported by that Accredited Program are otherwise reliable and fairly state the number of eligible and participating athletes in that Accredited Program's jurisdiction.