The school year is almost upon us and many of you are preparing your athlete for the fall sports season. Along with investing in good gear and uniforms, attending parent’s meetings, and planning team snacks, make sure to schedule your sports physicals.
While most athletic departments require sports physicals for participation, some do not. Regardless of your program requirements, if you plan to enroll your athlete in sports this year, we strongly urge you to schedule a sports physical for them before the new season starts. Sports physicals are an important first step for keeping your athlete safe, on and off the field.
What Is A Sports Physical?
While annual physicals measure overall health and development, sports physicals, also known as pre-participation exams (PPE), are specific to your athlete’s physical health as it relates to their sport. Sports physicals assess whether or not your athlete is healthy enough to safely participate in their sport. While we are broadly referring to sports physicals as they relate to school-age athletes, athletes of all ages and abilities can take a sports physical as a way to screen for medical issues that may increase their risk of injury while playing their sport.
Why Are Sports Physicals Important?
Sports physicals are the first line of defence against injury. They help identify potential risks of injury by checking physical health (including cardiac, neurological, and pulmonary health) before participation. One of the most important aspects of sports physicals is that they focus on any health history that may directly affect your athlete’s ability to play their sport. Without a sports physical, it’s difficult to know how your athlete’s body will respond to the physical demands of their sport; physical impairments or conditions that go un-identified before sports participation can result in injury or even death.
Sports physicals do more than just determine whether or not your athlete can participate in their sport, they also give your physician a chance to counsel your athlete on how they can stay healthy and safe while playing their sport. For example, your physician may prescribe certain stretches to help prevent common injuries, they may prescribe an inhaler if your athlete has asthma, they may offer tips to help your athlete recover after strenuous activity, they may educate your athlete about lifestyle choices. If your athlete is playing a contact sport, your physician may even recommend periodic check-ups throughout their season to monitor your athlete for potential brain and neurological injury.
What Happens At A Sports Physical?
Before arriving to a sports physical, we suggest you write down any medical history (surgeries, illnesses, injuries, conditions) that may be relevant. Also, document any questions or concerns you may have about your athlete’s participation so that your physician can address those with you during the physical. Lastly, remember to bring your athlete’s sports physical form; these can usually be found on your state’s athletic association website.
Sports physicals begin similarly to an annual physical; by checking your athlete’s height and weight and vitals (this includes pulse and blood pressure). This is an important part of the exam since height and weight changes can put added stress on the body, and pulse and blood pressure that fall outside of the acceptable range can indicate heart conditions.
The physician will check your athlete’s eyes to determine whether or not they need corrective lenses, or need their prescription changed. This is important because sports involve movement and risk, and your athlete’s ability to see greatly affects their ability to react to their environment and maintain personal safety.
The physician will review your athlete’s medical history; this is a great time to discuss your athlete’s past and present health, and address any questions and concerns you or your athlete have about their sports participation. Based on this information, your physician can discuss any potential risks they identify based on your athlete’s medical history, and counsel your athlete to help them stay healthy while playing their sport.
Your athlete will undergo a physical fitness assessment. Here, your physician will check your athlete’s joints, flexibility, strength, reflexes, heart, lungs, and abdomen to ensure that they are physically fit to safely play their sport. Your physician will then discuss any areas of the body that may be prone to injury and will make recommendations to help your athlete strengthen and protect those areas to reduce their risk.
Sports Physicals At WWMG
As we mentioned earlier, sports physicals are great for athletes of any age; including those who are simply starting a new exercise program. If you are preparing to schedule a sports physical for your athlete, remember that timing is important. Contact your athlete’s athletic program to make sure you schedule your athlete’s sports physical appointment in time to meet the deadlines. Sports exams are typically valid for one calendar year, but that can vary by school, league, or athletic program.
At all of our Family Practice locations, we are dedicated to helping your whole family stay safe and be healthy. We offer a number of services, including sports physicals, and are eager to serve families at all of our locations. As you’re gearing up to tackle this sports season with your athlete, don’t forget to schedule their sports physical with your family physician, or a physician here at WWMG.