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Unified Sports Research

Special Olympics is activating people to #PlayUnified in order to live unified. Share these resources demonstrating the many impacts of Unified Sports.


Share evidence of Special Olympics’ impact through these summaries of Special Olympics research that include ready-to-share printouts designed for Programs.

  • Best Stats for Unified Sports (PDF): This one-pager provides the most compelling data points about Special Olympics Unified Sports in easy-to-use bullet points and infographics.
  • Why Research Unified Sports (PDF): Unified Sports provides people with and without ID the opportunity to play on the same sports team, creating a space for friendships, physical activity, and fun. Research on Unified Sports has found that Unified Sports athletes experience improved social competence and social inclusion while decreasing problem behaviors.
  • Creating Inclusive Communities (PDF): By consistently challenging the negative perceptions of people with ID and demonstrating their capabilities, Unified Sports creates “bridges to social inclusion” in the community.
  • Impact on Participants (PDF): Athletes and partners benefit from Unified Sports in a number of ways. First and foremost, Unified Sports is a fun, challenging experience for athletes and partners that allows them to improve their sports skills and be part of a team.
  • Key Findings (PDF): The Key Findings section highlights a few of the important takeaways the research on Unified Sports has provided, such as 82% of family members in the U.S. reported that athletes improved their self-esteem/self-confidence after participation.


Use and customize these charts and graphs to help illustrate some key research findings.

  • As A Bridge to Social Inclusion Graph (PDF): Working in five countries, this evaluation carried out more than 200 qualitative interviews and gathered data on 55 Unified teams that showed a complex and positive relationship that Unified Sports had on participating youth, the organization involved and interaction with the local community.
  • Athlete and Partner Effort Graph (PDF): Use this graphic to illustrate the athlete and Unified partner effort during competition reported. The similarities are striking.
  • Partner Gains in Understanding People with ID Graph (PDF): Use this graphic to show how the vast majority of Unified partners have reported their understanding of people with ID has changed a lot (51%) or a little (31%) since becoming involved with Special Olympics Unified Sports.
  • Key Findings Image (JPG): Download a jpeg of the key findings and associated sources.


Utilize additional research-related resources that may be helpful for your Program.

  • An Emerging Player In Sports Development (PDF): An Emerging Player In Sports Development
  • Final Report, Unified Sports (PDF): An evaluation of Special Olympics Youth Unified Sports® Program in Europe-Eurasia.
  • McCarey: Unified Sports (DOCX): Research that supports how Unified Sports can educationally, socially and physically benefit students with and without intellectual disabilities in schools.
  • National Evaluation of Special Olympics Unified Sports Program (PDF): Analyzes the perceptions of key stakeholders regarding their commitment to the concept of Unified Sports, and their overall satisfaction with the Unified Sports program.
  • Ozer Unified Sports and Behavior Outcomes (PDF): Research study of the effects of Unified Sports on psycho-social attributes of youth with and without intellectual disability.
  • Res Conclu U Mass (PDF): Research that documents the positive impact of participation in school-based Unified Sports programming for elementary school with and without disabilities.
  • Abstracts (PDF): This 10-page document provides background and highlights of an array of Unified Sports studies conducted.
  • Brochure (PDF): Evaluates the Special Olympics youth Unified Sports program in Europe.
  • Evaluation Report 2015 (DOCX): This evaluation addresses whether Unified Sports improves social inclusion; impacts health, physical activity, and sports participation outside of Special Olympics; the demographics of Unified Sports athletes and partners; and current levels of awareness about Unified Sports in the general public.
  • Five Nation Study (PDF): Aims to describe the factors that promote social inclusion within Youth Unified Sports® and aims to identify the effects of further developing Unified Sports®.
  • Abstracts (May 2013) (PDF): Investigates the effects that a Unified Sports soccer program on anthropometry, physical fitness and soccer skills of male youth athletes with and without intellectual disabilities.


Access research articles that go into more detail on some of the findings shared in the overview section.