For children and teens that plan on playing any form of organized sport, a sports physical is a vital part of the process and something that needs to be done every year. If your child already plays any sport through their school or an extracurricular organization, you’re likely already aware of the requirement, as most organizations require all children to undergo a sports physical before being allowed to step on the field or court. However, you may not be aware of the reasons why this type of physical is so important.

What is a Sports Physical
For teenagers that don’t intend to get into a sports activity, it’s quite common for physicians to suggest the child undergo a standard physical every two years. However, this standard physical differs from a sports physical in a number of ways.

  • The standard physical is basically designed to check your child’s overall level of health to ensure that they’re growing and developing as they should be.
  • On the other hand, a sports physical is much more targeted, with the goal being to ascertain whether the child is healthy enough to take part in their chosen activity safely and without unneeded risk.
  • For instance, if your child plans on playing a sport such as football, soccer or baseball/softball, where they’ll spend the majority of their time outdoors, the sports physical may include making sure that the child doesn’t have an extreme allergy to bees or other stinging insects commonly found around playing fields.
  • The physician will also examine the child’s overall level of health and medical history to ensure there are no heart conditions or other medical issues that could put them at an increased risk for harm or injury.

The physician will also take into account your family’s medical history in an effort to identify any potential risks or conditions that may need more attention or monitoring. 

Who Needs a Sports Physical
Basically, every child and teen that gets into sports will need to get a new sports physical every 9 to 12 months to ensure that they can compete in the upcoming season safely. Nonetheless, the actual tests performed during the physical may be different depending on the child’s age, gender and chosen sport. Here’s an example.

  • Teenage girls are generally at a higher risk for serious knee injuries, meaning your doctor may want to pay special attention to determine whether her knees are healthy enough to participate.
  • In some cases, the doctor may recommend a range of strengthening exercises and stretches to lower this risk and hopefully prevent injury.
  • Alternatively, boys that play high-contact sports like football and hockey should be monitored for potential brain and neurological disorders due to the increased risk of concussion with these sports.

Getting a Sports Physical
Most local physicians offer sports physicals, and the process usually takes no more than 30 minutes.

  • Before coming into the office for the physical, it’s important that you pick up whatever forms your child’s school or organization requires and fill them out fully.
  • The forms will often contain a questionnaire for you and your teen to fill out, which will help give the doctor a better idea of your child’s medical history and help the doctor identify any areas that he/she may need to pay special attention to.

The good news is that the process is painless and generally quite inexpensive, so there’s no need to worry even if your child has a fear of doctors. Plus, the physical is the only way to make sure your child is healthy, which means it’s an absolute must if you want to prevent your child from potentially becoming sick or injured while he or she is on the field.

For more information, visit Careworks.

Author:  Lia Crispell, CRNP