The Parents Guide to Sports Physicals

WHAT IS A SPORTS PHYSICAL:A sports physical is an exam done by a medical professional that helps determine whether it’s safe for a child to participate in a particular sport. Most schools require that kids and teens have a sports physical before they can start a new sport or begin a new competitive season. In medical terms, the sports physical exam is known as a Preparticipation Physical Evaluation (PPE). This information is used by coaches and team physicians to understand any issues your child may have, and base their decisions in regard to that information. A sports physical can help identify and deal with health problems that might put your child at risk while participating in their sport.WHAT TO EXPECT:The actual forms will be provided by your school. They will have a portion for you to fill out, called the medical history, and a portion for the doctor to fill out, called the physical exam. The physical exam usually takes 10 – 15 minutes, and is performed with all of the child’s clothes on.PRIMARY OBJECTIVES OF A SPORTS PHYSICAL:*Screen for potentially life-threatening or disabling conditions.*Screen for conditions that may predispose and athlete to injury or illness while training or competing.*Address administrative requirements.SECONDARY OBJECTIVES OF A SPORTS PHYSICAL:*Determining general health.*Serve as an entry point into the healthcare system for adolescents.*Provide opportunity for discussion on health and lifestyle issues.MEDICAL HISTORY:Usually the first half of the Preparticipation Physical Evaluation (PPE) form is a list of questions called the medical history. This is arguably the most crucial component of the PPE. A complete history will identify approximately 75% of problems affecting athletes. The questions have been developed to screen for conditions that would place the athlete at unacceptable medical risk. The most accurate information is obtained when the athletes and parents complete the history form together before the evaluation. In one study, only 39% of what the children put down agreed with information given by the parents completing the same form. Take the time to answer the questions carefully.EXAM:The physical examination portion of the PPE is the actual exam preformed by your doctor. It is focused on the areas of greatest concern in sports participation, and is a chance to screen the areas identified as problems in the history. During the exam, the doctor will usually check your child’s height, weight, vision, lungs, cardiovascular system, skin, and the musculoskeletal system. They will also evaluate posture, joints, range of motion, and flexibility.DETERMINING CLEARANCE:The Preparticipation Physical Evaluation is not intended to discourage or prevent participation in competitive sports. It’s unlikely that any health conditions your child has will prevent them from playing sports completely.At the end of an athlete’s exam, the doctor will sign a form allowing your child to participate in their sport. In some cases a follow-up exam, additional tests, or specific treatment for medical problems may be required.TIMING:To allow time to treat or rehabilitate any problems, the PPE should be performed at least 6 weeks before preseason practice. This allows the student athlete to deal with issues before practice starts, and not take any time away from their sports participation.THE FINAL WORD:Remember, the sports physical is not intended to disqualify your child from any sport. Less than 1% of the physicals done nationwide result in the athlete not being cleared, so relax! It is more of a screening process to make sure they are healthy enough to compete. Although it may seem like a chore, sports physicals are an important component to your child’s health.

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