Many children become excited as spring rolls around as it means a new sports season. However, before participating in any physical activity, your child should be evaluated by a doctor to determine if it is safe. School sports physicals, sometimes referred to as Pre-Participation Physical Exams (PPE), are required in most states to determine if a child or teenager is in good enough health to participate in a chosen sport.
What is the purpose of a Sports Physical?
Sports physicals are intended to discover if a child is at risk for illness, injury, or the rare event of sudden death while participating in the sport. These exams may also help the child or teen understand his or her physical strengths and weaknesses in regards to the chosen sport. The doctor may even suggest exercises such as strength training or cardio to better condition for their sport.
Other reasons for sports physicals include:
- Identifying any conditions that would limit full participation in the sport, such as a concussion
- Finding conditions that require treatment such as eating disorders, high blood pressure, and lung conditions like asthma
- Evaluating and treating prior injuries, which can be a predictor of future injuries as these areas have been weakened
- Eliminating any previous participation restrictions that are no longer necessary
- Examining the child may give the medical practitioner the chance to discuss other health issues such as drugs, alcohol, healthy eating, helmets, and other safety measures that are important for student athletes.
If discovered, some health conditions may limit participation, including:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Fever, which indicates an infection. During a fever, sports activity should be restricted
- Knee instability
- Any type of fracture or dislocation
- Other illness or injury that may result in more harm should the child participate in certain physical activities.
What does a Sports Physical Include?
The PPE has two parts: the medical history and the physical exam. The history will include:
- A review of immunizations – ensuring the proper vaccines are completed based on the child’s age
- Evaluation and review of any past injuries, such as broken bones and sprains
- Previous hospitalizations
- Current medications
- Serious illnesses that may run in the family, such as heart disease
The physical exam, which is the same for boys and girls until puberty, will include:
- Height and weight check
- Blood pressure & pulse readings
- Checking the heart, lungs, ears, throat, nose, and abdomen
- Discussion of current dietary supplements, alcohol and drug use
If the PPE finds the child or teen has no reason to refrain from sports, the provider will sign the required form. If a problem is found, more tests and a follow-up exam may be required. Any sports exam should be scheduled well in advance of the opening of the sports season so that any necessary follow-up treatment can be completed on time.
Even in states which do not require the PPE, physicians would recommend it strongly. If your child is interested in participating in upcoming spring sports, do not delay. Contact us for an appointment, and be sure to bring the required documentation from the school or organization.