Now’s the Time to Schedule Your Child’s Sports Physical for the Coming School Year

Aug 01, 2023
Now’s the Time to Schedule Your Child’s Sports Physical for the Coming School Year
Whether your incoming middle-schooler wants to join the cross-country team this fall, or your high school senior is gearing up for their fourth consecutive football season, they need a sports physical first. Learn more here. 

As a family medicine expert who provides a complete scope of preventive health services for patients of all ages at Comprehensive Care Clinic in Spring, Texas, Tyneza Mitchell, FNP, offers specialized sports physicals in addition to routine wellness visits and annual exams

If your young athlete needs a sports physical before the upcoming school year, now — 4-6 weeks before the start of their season — is the best time to get it done. Here, we explain why this preseason exam is so important, and what you can expect at your appointment.  

Ensuring safe sports participation

Young athletes who are gearing up to join a specific sports team or school-sponsored athletic activity require medical clearance to play. This is attained with a preseason sports physical — an in-depth health evaluation to establish whether kids and adolescents can safely participate in their chosen sport. 

Here’s what a sports physical does for any aged child of any preferred activity:

  • Considers their full medical history
  • Examines their current health status
  • Establishes their physical maturity 
  • Evaluates their physical readiness
  • Documents any pre-existing injuries

Also called a preparticipation physical exam (PPE), a sports physical can help ascertain if your young athlete has a higher risk of injury, illness, or sudden cardiac arrest when they’re in the game — either because of past injuries, current chronic health conditions, or significant family history factors. With this knowledge, you can take preemptive action to reduce those risks or switch sports as advised. 

Whether your student-athlete is in middle school, high school, or college, all young athletes planning to enroll in a new sport or start a new competitive season require a sports physical. 

What to expect at a sports physical

A sports physical is like your child’s yearly wellness exam, with one defining exception: It assesses their musculoskeletal health (bones, muscles, joints) and cardiovascular health (heart and lungs) more thoroughly. Your young athlete’s appointment has two main sections:

1. Comprehensive health history 

Our exam starts with an in-depth health review that goes over your student athlete’s personal medical history and family health history. You can expect to discuss everything from chronic health conditions (i.e., asthma, allergies) to current medications, and more. 

The general topics and specific questions we cover are on the physical form provided by your child’s school, which should be completed by you (or your older student) and brought to our office for the exam appointment.

Past injury focus

The health history portion of a sports physical is especially thorough when covering past injuries (i.e., joint sprains, muscle strains, bone fractures, concussions) and hospitalizations. This information helps us better assess your child’s risk of future injury in the game. We may also ask about training habits and discuss strategies to help prevent an overuse injury.   

Cardiovascular focus

We also take an in-depth look at your child’s heart health, beginning with any cardiovascular symptoms your child has experienced during physical exertion (i.e., chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath). Next, ask about your family history of heart problems (i.e., close family members with heart conditions, unexplained fainting or seizures, and more). 

2. Sports-informed physical exam

A sports physical appointment is like a routine annual checkup, but we offer additional sports-related evaluations, focusing on your child’s bone, joint, lung, and heart health. 

Standard checkup 

After measuring your young athlete’s height, weight, heart rate, and blood pressure, we perform routine checks on their ears, nose, throat, abdomen, and lungs.

Heart exam 

Next, we perform a cardiovascular assessment, listening for signs of a heart problem that could impair normal function during sustained exertion (i.e., irregular heartbeat, murmur). If we find any abnormalities, we order further testing. 

Physical readiness 

During the musculoskeletal portion of the exam, we evaluate your young athlete’s posture, joint stability, strength, and flexibility. This part of the physical is especially important if your child is prone to recurrent sports injuries. 

Vision testing 

If your child doesn’t wear corrective lenses (and hasn’t had a recent eye exam), we perform vision testing to see if they need glasses or contacts to play sports. We recommend protective eyewear for all young people who play contact sports. 

Post-exam clearance to play

We can usually provide post-exam clearance for sports participation at the end of the physical itself. Clearance can take longer, however, if our exam determines that your young athlete has a medical condition or risk factor that requires further treatment or intervention, such as: 

  • Uncontrolled asthma
  • Possible heart condition
  • Vision correction need
  • Chronic joint instability 
  • Lingering overuse injury

Depending on the issue at hand, we may recommend additional tests right away or a follow-up exam after a period of treatment. 

Is your young athlete in need of a sports physical? Call us at Comprehensive Care Clinic in Spring, Texas, today, or click online to schedule an appointment any time.