Everything You Need to Know About Sports Physicals

Is your middle or high schooler an athlete? The benefits of participating in youth sports are many, from improved self-esteem and social skills to the physical benefits of regular exercise. But it’s also important to ensure that it’s safe for your child to play a sport. Before their next season begins, don’t forget to take your child for a sports physical.

Why Does My Child Need a Sports Physical?

A sports physical is an exam that allows a healthcare provider to make sure that your child is healthy enough to play a sport. In the state of Minnesota, sports physicals, or preparticipation physical examinations, are required every three years for all kids playing school sports in grades 7–12. But the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends taking your student athlete in once a year for a physical, regardless of whether it’s required.  At the physical, your healthcare provider will evaluate your child’s health as it applies to playing a particular sport and ensure that he or she does not have any issues that will affect sports participation.

What Happens During a Sports Physical?

Your healthcare provider will have you answer questions about your child’s medical history, including:

  • Allergies
  • Any other health problems experienced while exercising, such as dizziness or fainting
  • Hospitalizations and surgeries
  • Medications
  • Past injuries, including concussions, broken bones, sprains and strains
  • Past or current illnesses, such as asthma or diabetes

Next, your provider will do a physical exam that includes:

  • Checking the abdomen, ears, nose and throat
  • Completing a vision test
  • Evaluating strength and flexibility, as well as posture
  • Listening to the heart and lungs
  • Measuring height and weight
  • Taking blood pressure and pulse

When the exam is complete, your provider will sign a form if your child is cleared to participate. If any issues were discovered, he or she will recommend a follow-up appointment, additional testing or treatment for specific problems.

How Does a Sports Physical Differ for Girls and Boys?

While most of the exam is the same for girls and boys, some questions are unique to females. These include screening questions about menstruation, diet and nutrition, and bone health, concerns that are known as the female athlete triad. Sometimes, additional tests might be required.

What’s the Difference Between a Sports Physical and a Routine Physical?

While it might seem like your child doesn’t need a sports physical and a routine physical, both are recommended. While the sports physical is focused on health as it relates to physical activity, a routine physical encompasses your child’s overall well-being. This includes immunizations, sleeping and eating habits, puberty development and mental health. You can request to have both exams done at the same appointment.

It’s best to get your child’s sports physical done at least six weeks before the start of a new season. That way, there is time to make any necessary follow-up appointments and address any concerns that come up during the exam.

The providers at River’s Edge Hospital’s Urgent Care Department are available for walk-in sports physicals seven days a week. Visit Monday–Friday from noon to 7:30 p.m. or weekends from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.



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