Required sports physicals offer parents the opportunity to learn about some of the potential health issues their children may face. It is a perfect time to track their health — to provide athletes and parents with education on diet, proper hydration and fitness techniques. Physicians recommend that parents schedule their child’s sports physical during the summer months (six to eight weeks prior to the start of school athletics) before life gets too busy as kids head back to school.
What is the purpose of sports physicals?
Sports physicals achieves a number of important goals, including:
- Identify medical or musculoskeletal conditions that might make participation in a particular sport unsafe
- Assure that any previous injuries have been adequately rehabilitated so that the athlete is not at risk for further injury
- Inquire about any serious illnesses among other family members
- Review prior illnesses such as asthma, diabetes or epilepsy
- Examine any medications (including over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements and prescription medications)
Reviewing a child’s medical history and the family’s medical history is vital to assess for any special risks specific to that child. Both parents and athletes should complete the history portion of any physical exam form prior to arriving at the office to assure accurate responses. History of any previous heat illness should be included.
Check your muscles and your heart!
The most common reason athletes may be withheld from competition is a musculoskeletal condition. For instance, unresolved injuries to the knee, ankle, shoulder, back, hip or elbow might impact performance.
It is critically important that the physician also evaluate the cardiovascular system. A focused cardiovascular examination should include:
- Accurate measurement of blood pressure with comparison to age-specific standards
- Detection of heart murmurs
- Assessment of the upper and lower extremity pulses
- Review of the cardiovascular history, particularly as it relates to temporary loss of consciousness and chest pain upon exertion, or a family history of heart disease, heart murmur, or sudden death.
Parents should never allow sports physicals to replace their children’s yearly exams. Establishing care with a primary care physician specializing in Family Medicine begins that physician-patient relationship infancy through adulthood, making continuity of care for children simple as they grow.