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Sports Physicals: Everything You Need to Know

If you have ever had a child play sports or maybe had a change of employment, then you’re probably familiar with having to obtain some sort of physical. Now although we may some experience with them, we might not know exactly what sports physicals are, who needs one, or why our children need them. In Health Journal IV, we are going to take an in-depth look at Sports Physicals and help you answer some of those questions.

What is a sports physical?

A sports physical exam or pre-participation physical examination (PPE) is used to help determine whether or not it’s safe for a child to participate in a certain sport. These exams usually contain two main parts that include questions about your medical history, in addition to the physical exam. It’s important to note that a sports physical for your child does not replace the need for a regular annual check-up because a sports physical is more focused on your child’s health history or problems that will have an impact on their ability to play a sport. Below, we have listed a few questions and tests to expect when receiving a sports physical.

Medical History Questions:
  • Illnesses that your child may have had when they were younger or may have now. For example, asthma or diabetes.
  • Previous hospitalizations or major surgeries
  • What medications does your child take?
  • Allergies
  • Past injuries
Physical Examination:
  • Height and Weight
  • Range of motion test
  • Blood pressure and Pulse
  • Test of the child’s vision
  • Urinalysis (depends on state or local requirements)
  • Hernia check-males only (depends on state or local requirements)

Who needs a sports physical?

If you are not sure if your child needs a sports physical, then the answer is probably yes. In most states, it is required that all student-athletes must complete a physical before they will be allowed to participate in a school-sanctioned sport or in activities such as the marching band. It is also not uncommon for student-athletes who are playing club or recreational sports to also be required to pass a sports physical before they are allowed to participate.

Why does my child need a physical?

As you’ve read about what a sports physical entails and who needs them, you may still be asking, why? Many parents take their children to the doctor at least once a year for their normal scheduled check-up so it might feel a bit redundant or unnecessary to have to do any additional exam. However, as great as sports can be for our bodies, it can also sometimes be difficult and lead to injuries or the magnification of other health problems. Physicals are important because they allow a provider who is focused on one’s ability to play sports safely, to detect a medical condition or injury beforehand that could end up causing serve complications later. With a physical, the focus is on those important screening areas like the lungs and heart, so early detection could very well be life-saving.

When should my child get a sports physical? How long do they last?

Sports physicals are usually required to be performed once a year or before your child’s sports season is set to begin. It is recommended that your child obtains their physical around 6 weeks before the sports season begins, because it gives adequate time to address any issues that may come up. Cutting it to close to the first practice could prevent your child from playing and may cause them to miss a significant amount of time.

As a reminder for active families and individuals, NextCare is the place to go for convenient, affordable sports physicals with no appointment required.  Our caring and compassionate staff is also here to help with any minor breaks, sprains, cuts or pains that go on throughout a sports season.

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