Sports Physicals For Kids: What to Expect

SPORTS PHYSICALS FOR KIDS: WHAT TO EXPECT

If your child is part of a school team or recreational league, they will probably need to get a physical in order to participate in their chosen sport. Many states, schools, and organizations require physical assessments, but it’s a good idea even if it isn’t mandatory. Sports physicals are an important part of the preventative care your child’s pediatrician provides.

Yearly Physicals vs Sports Physicals

Many sports teams and organizations require what’s often called a pre-participation physical examination (PPE) before they are allowed to play their chosen sport. Unlike a yearly physical that is used to check overall health with multiple types of evaluations, a PPE focuses on health as it relates to the ability to safely play a sport.

Even if there are no state or organizational requirements, doctors recommend all children get a physical assessment before starting a new sport. Physicals should be done with each new season even if the child has played the sport in previous competitive seasons.

Sometimes schools and summer camps also require a yearly physical before they are allowed to attend. Both a sports physical and any assessment done for participation in school or camp should not replace a yearly well-child visit. Sports physicals should be done in addition to that annual physical. However, you can talk to your doctor to see if you can have both examinations done during one visit so they can fill out the PPE form without needing another appointment.

What’s included in a Sports Physical?

There are two main components to a sports physical: the medical history and the physical exam. Both parts of the physical assessment are important in determining whether a child can safely participate in a sport. They can also catch injuries and conditions that may need to be treated before they can participate.

Medical History

Medical history is used to gather health information about the child. This portion of the exam consists of the doctor asking questions about the child’s personal health history as well as the health history of immediate family members. During the medical history, the healthcare provider will get information on:

  • Family history of illnesses
  • Past illnesses
  • Current illnesses including chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, or epilepsy
  • Allergies
  • Past injuries
  • Including head injuries like concussions
  • Medications the child is currently taking

The healthcare provider will also ask questions about the child’s behavior, habits, and other relevant subjects. Common subjects touched on include nutrition, use of drugs and alcohol, and lifestyle factors like their regular level of physical activity. This is useful for determining both physical and mental health.

Female athletes are at a higher risk for developing something called the female athlete triad that includes menstrual problems, low energy, and bone weakness. Adolescent females will be asked questions regarding their periods, nutrition, and bone health.

Physical Exam

The physical examination component of as sports physical should include:

Measurement and recording of vital signs:

  • Height
  • Weight
  • Temperature
  • Heart rate
  • Blood pressure
  • Pulse
  • Vision screening
  • Assessment of heart and lung function
  • External exam of the abdomen
  • Posture evaluation
  • Joint health, strength & flexibility assessment
  • Examination of ears, nose, and throat

Children with special needs or disabilities can be given more specialized sports physicals so that they can safely participate in activities with their peers. Pediatricians are also a great resource for suggestions for activities that are appropriate for children with disabilities.

Athlete Heart Screenings

Sudden cardiac death is 2.5 times more likely to occur in young athletes than in non-athletes. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the most common cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes, occurs in 1 out of every 500 people.

Young athletes are encouraged to have a pre-participation sports physical that includes a physical exam, a complete health history and family history, a EKG screening and, for athletes with an abnormal EKG or family history, an echocardiogram. Clearance by a pediatric cardiologist may also be recommended.

Rural Health Pediatrics is committed to providing comprehensive and individualized care to all of our patients. We offer a variety of pediatric services to keep your child happy and healthy, including sports physicals. Call our office at (760) 499-3846 to make an appointment.

New Patient Packet in English:

PPE Health, physical, and medical forms

PPE – Supplement for Athletes with Disabilities

Special Olympics Medical Form

Special Olympics Medical Form Instructions

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Sports Physicals For Kids: What to Expect services available at the following locations: