You know that playing sports helps keep kids fit and are a fun way for them to socialize and make friends. But you might not know why the physical kids may have to take at the beginning of their sports season is so important.
About Sports Physicals
In the sports medicine field, the sports physical exam — or preparticipation physical examination (PPE) — helps determine whether it's safe for kids to participate in a particular sport. Most states actually require that kids and teens have a sports physical before they can start a new sport or begin a new competitive season. But even if a PPE isn't required, doctors still highly recommend getting one.
The two main parts to a sports physical are the medical history and the physical exam.
This part of the exam includes questions about:
- serious illnesses among family members
- illnesses that kids had when they were younger or may have now, such as asthma, diabetes, or epilepsy
- previous hospitalizations or surgeries
- allergies (to insect bites, for example)
- past injuries (including concussions, sprains, or bone fractures)
- whether the child has ever passed out, felt dizzy, had chest pain, or had trouble breathing during exercise
- any medications taken (including over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements, and prescription medications)
The medical history questions are usually on a form that you'll fill out with your child. Looking at patterns of illness in a family is a good indicator of any potential conditions kids might have. Most sports medicine doctors believe the medical history is the most important part of the sports physical exam, so take time to answer the questions carefully. It's unlikely that any health conditions your child has will prevent him or her from playing sports completely.
During the physical part of the exam, the doctor will usually:
- record height and weight
- take a blood pressure and pulse (heart rate and rhythm) reading
- test your child's vision
- check the heart, lungs, abdomen, ears, nose, and throat
- evaluate your child's posture, joints, strength, and flexibility
Although most aspects of the exam will be the same for males and females, the doctor may ask girls and guys different questions if they've started or already gone through puberty. For example, if a girl is heavily involved in a lot of active sports, the doctor may ask her about her period and diet to make sure she doesn't have something like female athlete triad.
A doctor will also ask questions about use of drugs, alcohol, or dietary supplements, including steroids or other "performance enhancers" and weight-loss supplements, because these can affect a person's health. At the end of the exam, the doctor will either fill out and sign a form if everything checks out OK or, in some cases, recommend a follow-up exam, additional tests, or specific treatment for medical problems.