Athlete’s Low Bone Density Managed, Thanks to Detection at Healthy Athletes

February 01, 2010

Special Olympics athlete Jeremy Valade of Michigan, USA, has been to Healthy Athletes several times, gotten eye and dental exams, and received a mouth guard and sports goggles at Healthy Athletes. But it was his visit during the USA National Games in Iowa in 2006 that changed his life.

Jeremy squats low to make an impressive bocce shot

Special Olympics athlete Jeremy Valade plays bocce while a teammate looks on.

A screening indicated low bone density, and a follow-up with his hometown doctor discovered that he had severe osteoporosis. Fortunately, he found out about his condition through a screening, not an injury, and by taking action, he has significantly increased his T-score.

“He is the picture of a healthy guy. He is thin. He is muscular.  He is strong,” said Julie Valade, Jeremy’s mother. “You would never imagine there was a problem with low bone density. His doctor looked at the slip from Healthy Athletes and laughed. He didn’t think it was necessary to do a screening.”  Yet, out of an overabundance of caution and because the doctors at Healthy Athletes recommended it, he did a bone screening and was shocked at the result.

Jeremy was referred to an endocrinologist who recommended daily shots of Forteo, a drug normally used on older people with osteoporosis.  His endocrinologist set Jeremy up with a test program with the world-renowned Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota (USA).

Of course, getting a shot every day is something that Jeremy had to get used to. But the shots “didn’t really hurt,” he reports, and soon Jeremy had figured out how to give himself the shots.

“Jeremy is very independent.  He likes to learn,” Julie said.

Fortunately, neither his low bone density nor his treatments affected Jeremy’s life in a significant way.  He stopped playing soccer to avoid injury, but “didn’t really miss it.  He found there are so many things to do in Special Olympics,” Julie said. “There is a fine line – you want to stay active to stay healthy, but need to stay away from contact sports.”

Two years is the longest any patient can be on Forteo. Over the course of two years, his bone density improved significantly. His condition is now classified as osteopenia, not osteoporosis. His endocrinologist tests him every six months in a “wait and see” mode but is optimistic about his long-term prospects.  “She thinks maybe it will stay that way – all thanks to early discovery,” Julie said. “His osteoporosis would have been totally missed without his loving Special Olympics coach and the volunteers who provide such wonderful services.”

Now 27 years old, Jeremy has been a Special Olympics athlete since he was 8. He has been active in basketball, poly hockey, bocce, softball, track, and soccer. Julie has also been very active in Special Olympics, serving as an assistant area director since 1996. After so many years of service, Julie is retiring from Special Olympics this year. Jeremy, however, has no plans to retire from Special Olympics or Healthy Athletes.


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