One of the great joys of being a parent is watching your child participate in athletics, whether it’s volleyball or tennis in the fall, basketball in the winter, or track and field in the spring. For the kids participating, it’s a great social opportunity and self-esteem builder. They learn about teamwork, push themselves to succeed, and get plenty of exercise in the process.
The idea of getting a sports physical ahead of the fall or spring sports season may seem excessive to some parents. Aren’t physicals for professional athletes? Why would they be necessary for children or young adults participating in school sports or recreational leagues?
The reality is, many schools think so. Sports physicals (often called a pre-participation exam or PPE) are often required before children can participate in organized sports. Even if a physical isn’t required, there’s a strong case for having one.
Is your child healthy enough to play sports?
A sports physical is designed to assess whether a child is healthy enough to play sports, or whether there are any physical issues that could be exacerbated by certain athletic activities. In doing so, the sports physical can reduce the risk of sports-related injuries and health problems.
Specifically, the physical takes into account the child’s overall health, level of fitness, existing problems or injuries, and level of physical development. Family doctors can perform sports physicals, but many urgent care centers provide them. Schools with their own athletic departments often bring in doctors to perform PPEs at the school, provided the parents sign a consent form. An athletic trainer or PA might also be present during the exam.
What does a sports physical involve?
As a parent, it’s important to know what goes on during a sports physical. Kids themselves may also experience a measure of anxiety when it comes to getting an exam.
First off, the PPE always includes an assessment of the child’s medical history. This enables the doctor to take note of any medical or physical issues that need to be addressed or included in the overall assessment. A wide range of medical history is covered, from immunizations to the history of asthma and other illnesses.
Physically, the exam includes everything you might expect. Height and weight are measured, the lungs are checked, blood pressure is measured, heartbeat is monitored, and so forth. Flexibility and range of motion might also be tested. The genitals may also be examined. This can be uncomfortable or scary for some kids. It’s important for everyone to know whether or not this will be a part of the exam.
Although the sports physical may be slightly uncomfortable for some students, the final result is worth it. In many cases, the doctor gives the “green light” for the student to go ahead and participate in sports, knowing that they’re fit and ready to do so.
If the exam does reveal something abnormal, a rehab or treatment plan may be put in place to improve the child’s “readiness” for participation in sports. The doctor may also recommend additional tests or exams.
Overall, a sports physical is a routine exam that gives parents and children added confidence. Participating in athletics has wide-ranging benefits, but health and safety issues must also be properly addressed. Seeking a sports physical from a properly qualified medical professional is the best way to do that.