The primary purpose of sports physicals is to determine whether an individual is safe to participate in a particular sport or any physical activity. Some schools also incorporate this program in their curriculum, which is commonly referred to as a pre-participation exam (PPE). It is highly recommended for athletes including children and adolescents who participate in various sports. Whether you are a beginner, an amateur or a professional, you still need to visit a healthcare professional for a physical examination to assess your fitness level and determine whether it is safe for you to participate in any sporting activities. This article looks at the benefits of sports physicals and the reasons why it is necessary for both young and well-trained athletes.
- Assess an Athlete’s Skills and Performance
Sports physicals are used to assess power, endurance, balance, speed, and agility of an athlete. It is the key element in determining the skills and abilities of an athlete to enhance their performance. The tests that are included either can be general or sports specific. You can choose to complete the testing at the time of the pre-participation exam or the components can be included in the preseason evaluation. Standardized protocols are used regardless of when testing is included and covers everything related to dynamic balance, speed, agility, static, and cardiovascular endurance.
- Reduce the Risk of Injury
The ultimate goal of this component of sports physicals is to identify the risks for injury and the way to prevent it from occurring in the future. It optimizes performance and facilitates optimal musculoskeletal health. Although there are no specific components required during the assessment, an athlete is often tested and examined for muscle performance, gait, flexibility, and a thorough evaluation of any prior injury. One of the major risk factors for injury is muscle strength ratios and including neuro-musculoskeletal examination can identify such weaknesses at an early stage.
- Assess Joint Flexibility
Musculoskeletal examination during sports physicals tests for joint laxity and flexibility of an athlete. You may be taken through an active or passive range of motion testing and other articular tests that assess your dynamic and static posture, balance, and joint movement. Sport-specific testing is always included based on the presented evidence for the demands of participation in the sport. Some examples include balance testing for soccer, quadriceps flexibility for a hamstring injury, and core strength testing for preventing lower quadrant injury prevention.
The musculoskeletal exam can be done regionally with specific stations for spinal health, lower extremity, and upper extremity. The sports healthcare team relies on experience and expertise in designing the best approach for the musculoskeletal component of sports physicals.
- Assessment of General Good Health
Any type of abnormality could affect the sports performance of an athlete. It is important to review the medical history of an athlete including the existence of underlying medical issues and ongoing use of medications. The examination done during sports physicals should include body weight and height, pulse, blood pressure, respiration, and visual acuity. Athletes with a heart rate that exceeds 120 beats per minute should be referred for further evaluation. The general medical examination may also include a dental evaluation based on the available personnel and the intent of the sports physical examination. There is still controversy about the use of body mass index (BMI) as a determination of risk during the PPE since BMI may not accurately reflect obesity in athletes.
- Maximize Safe Participation in Physical Activity
Sports physicals allow the physician to discuss important issues such as avoidance of drugs or alcohol, unhealthy eating habits, and the importance of wearing helmets and seat belts. It also identifies any life-threatening health conditions that could affect your sports careers such as heart conditions or impaired mobility. Based on the assessment of skills and level of performance done by a physician, he or she can advise on the kind of sports that would be appropriate for a young athlete or an adolescent to participate in. All these assessments help to maximize safe participation, as you will have a sound mind and body to engage in a particular physical activity.
Sports physicals assess your medical history before you are taken through a physical exam or performance testing, and orthopedic examination. The physician uses an individual’s health history form to know your medical problems, as well as your lifestyle choices and daily habits. It is important to be honest, and open-minded with the information you give your physician as it determines how best they can help enhance your skills and performance in any type of sports or physical activity.