What is a Sports Physical Exam and Who Needs It?

Playing sports is fun and also a great way to stay fit. Unfortunately, it is also one of the easiest ways to get injured. Therefore, athletes should ensure they are healthy enough to participate in sports as safely as possible. For this reason, a sports physical is a prerequisite for most schools, organizations, and camps before your child can participate in sports or other physical activities. You can get spring sports physicals at your doctor’s office, urgent care centers, or some drugstores.

What is a sports physical exam?

A sports physical or pre-participation physical evaluation involves a physical examination and a review of an athlete’s medical history to ensure that it is safe for them to participate in a sport. In most states, children have a sports physical before playing school sports. But even if the school does not require one, physicals still recommend getting one if you are active in any sport.

A sports physical exam consists of two parts; during the first part, your healthcare provider takes a full medical history and does a physical exam during the second one. The questions about your medical history are usually on a form you can bring home; your parents can help you fill in the answers. You will need to answer questions about medical problems that run in your family. The form also contains questions about your previous illnesses, allergies, previous surgeries or hospitalizations, and past injuries. Your healthcare provider may also ask whether you have ever passed out, had chest pain, felt dizzy, or had breathing difficulties during exercise. You will also provide a list of the medicines you are taking, including prescription, over-the-counter, and dietary supplements.

Boys need to answer questions about testicle pain, and girls will be asked about their menstrual cycle and history of problems with the genitals or urinary system. You may also discuss your lifestyle; your doctor will ask if you take alcohol, smoke, use diet pills, or performance-enhancing supplements like steroids. It is best to answer the questions truthfully to get an accurate review. Avoid guessing the answers or giving the answers you think your healthcare provider wants.

The second part of the sports physical is the physical exam, where your doctor records your height and weight, checks your blood pressure and pulse, and tests your vision. They will also check your heart and lungs and examine your muscles, bones, and joints. You can take this visit as a chance to ask your doctor questions about your health and diet.

What to expect after sports physical

For most athletes, everything checks out okay, and the doctor clears them, meaning they have permission to play sports. Other times healthcare providers include a requirement the athlete has to fulfill before playing. For example, if you wear glasses, your doctor may recommend wearing prescription safety glasses when playing a sport.

Your healthcare provider will complete the sports physical form by providing information about an athlete’s current health, medical history, and conditions that increase their risk of injury. If the doctor clears you to play, they will sign the form and may include notes about special requirements or concerns. Depending on where you play, you may submit the form to the school, athletic trainer, or coach.

Book an appointment with your physician at Comprehensive Care Clinic if you need a pre-participation physical evaluation.