Why Does Your Child Need a Sports Physical?

Checkups ensure young athletes can participate
Is Your Child in Top Shape for Fall School Sports?

Autumn is almost here and that means it’s time for young athletes to begin practicing and conditioning for fall school sports. But before your child can begin practicing in a competitive setting, make sure your child undergoes a sports physical to make sure he or she is in tip-top shape.

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“A sports physical is extremely important,” says family medicine specialist Reid Perala, MD.

“It ensures the athletes are healthy and can participate,” Dr. Perala says. “During the physical, I look for any health issues, genetic conditions and medical problems that the parents and child may not be aware of that can potentially put the athlete at risk during sports.”

Here are Dr. Perala’s answers to some common questions parents have about sports physicals:

What type of doctor does a sports physical?

Any physician who practices family medicine, primary care, urgent care, pediatrics, orthopaedics or sports and exercise medicine can administer an athletic physical.

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Does my child still have to have an annual exam if they’ve had a sports physical?

Yes, annual exams are just as important as sports physicals. They address other areas that sports physicals don’t — such as immunizations, safety issues, school performance and growth and development.

What happens during the exam?

Two areas comprise a sports physical: a medical history and physical exam.

The medical history includes identifying:

  • Serious illnesses among direct family members.
  • Childhood illnesses.
  • Previous hospitalizations or surgeries.
  • Allergies.
  • Past injuries, such as concussions and bone fractures.
  • Current medications, including over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements and prescription medications.

The physical exam includes:

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  • Checking the heart for murmurs or other abnormalities.
  • Evaluating posture, joints, strength and flexibility.
  • Testing vision.
  • Checking the lungs, abdomen, ears, nose and throat.
  • Taking blood pressure and pulse.
  • Recording height and weight.

If there’s an issue that’s raised in the physical, will my child be able to participate in sports?

“It’s very rare that a child isn’t able to participate in athletics after his or her physical,” Dr. Perala says.

“If a health problem is found, I work to get the child back on track. If the child has shin splints, I send them to physical therapy, or if the athlete has exercised induced asthma, an inhaler may be prescribed. I want children to participate in sports and work to make sure they can.”

Physicals — for sports and as a regular exam — are necessary for your child’s well-being, Dr. Perala says.

“I like to see my patients when they are healthy in order to prevent injury and illness. It’s better to take care of health issues sooner than later,” he says.

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