Why Does My Child Athlete Need a Sports Physical?
Here are my top 4 main objectives in performing sports physicals.
Why does my child athlete require a sports physical? This question may seem self-explanatory but its importance lies mainly in the safety of the athlete. Many parents do not really understand why sports physicals are required or why certain questions or exams are done during the sports physical.
Sports physicals are physical exams performed yearly for children interested in playing sports either for a school or club team. The goal of a sports physical is to maximize the safety for sports participation.
Performing sports physical is one of my favorite parts of being a primary care sports medicine physician. This may be because I myself was a youth athlete and understand the dedication children put towards the sports they enjoy. It is during this time I can talk with the athlete about their sport of choice, concerns, and provide encouragement.
With that said, I also want to make sure they are healthy medically and physically to participate. Here are my top 4 focus areas when I perform sports physicals:
1. Is the athlete medically and physically capable of participating in sports?This includes review of the vital signs, particularly blood pressure and heart rate. In addition, vision will also be checked, so remember to bring your child’s glasses for the exam. Furthermore, a review of past medical history, performing a complete medical exam, and a full musculoskeletal assessment.
2. Does the athlete have risk factors for sudden cardiac death?Although hearing the phrase “Sudden Cardiac Death” can be frightening, thankfully it is a rare occurrence. With that said, I do take the time to do the proper cardiac testing and screening. I identifying risk factors by asking specific questions relevant to the heart and circulatory system. For example, a common historical question to address is if there is a history of a heart murmur. If so, how and when was it addressed? If I identify any abnormalities, I must ensure the athlete’s safety which may involve follow up with a specialist such as a cardiologist for clearance to participate in sports.
3. Are there any previous musculoskeletal injuries? As a board certified sports medicine specialist, I pay particular attention in reviewing previous musculoskeletal injuries. Sometimes athletes have previous injuries not well rehabbed that turn into nagging recurrent pain. This can lead to further injuries or inability to reach maximum performance and beyond. By identifying these injuries, implementing a proper treatment plan will successfully rehabilitate back to optimum physical performance. It is always better to rehab as soon as possible even if it is at the beginning of a sports season. Last thing I would want is an athlete that has to stop sports participation in mid-season due to an old injury not properly rehabbed.
4. Why is the athlete participating in this sport? Many youth athletes have goals of playing a sport in college and/or for a professional team. Some play a sport for fun. Others may join a sport to lose weight. Knowing the WHY helps me to provide guidance, health lessons, and encouragement.
The goal is always the safety of the athlete so they can enjoy and perform their sports to the best of their abilities.
Dr. Christina Hector
Dr. Hector and Dr. Mitchell are physicians dedicated to maximizing the patient experience in today's healthcare system. Both are available for speaking engagements to teach vital healthcare utilization issues. To find out more contact them HERE.
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