Why your child needs a sports physical

Basketball season is starting and your child is getting ready to play. Have you ticked sports physicals off your pre-season to-do list?

When thinking about preparing for a sports season, you may want to consider signing your child up for a sports league, learning when practices and games are held, and purchasing the necessary equipment. But it is important that sports physical training is also part of this training.

You may wonder why your child needs one physical before sports participation if he or she has already had an annual check-up. This is a fairly easy question to answer.

Tarebie Pella, Ph.D

“When I see your child for an annual check-up, I’m assessing his or her growth, development and overall health,” says Tarebie Pella, Ph.D, pediatrician and primary care provider at West Tennessee Medical Group Primary Care in Jackson. “I look at your child’s health from a ‘big picture’ perspective. During sports physical activity, on the other hand, I look more closely at aspects of his or her health that are important during physical activity, including heart health and past injuries. These types of reviews serve two different purposes.

Is sports physical training a requirement?
Perhaps. This depends on several factors, including your child’s age and the league or forum hosting the sport. The team coach will likely advise you of what is required at initial registrations or planning sessions.

Those who participate in school sports in West Tennessee are required by the TSSAA to complete a sports physical, also called a pre-participation physical evaluation or PPE, prior to the sports season. Your child’s health care provider will need to fill out the TSSAA form after the exam.

What is included in sports physical activity?
Like Dr. Pella mentioned above, the goal of sports physical is to carefully consider aspects of your child’s health that could affect their ability to participate in sports.

During the exam, the health care professional will perform a physical examination of your child or teen, looking closely at the joints, muscles, and bones, as well as range of motion and balance. In addition to the exam, he or she will also ask questions about factors that could increase the risk of future sports-related injury or illness. This may include questions about:

  • Whether your child has asthma or allergies that can interfere with normal breathing
  • How physically active and fit is your child right now
  • Whether your child has had a history of feeling dizzy or fainting during physical activity
  • Your child’s eating habits and overall nutrition
  • Is your child up to date on vaccinations?
  • Medicines your child is taking, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines and vitamins
  • Your daughter’s menstrual cycle, if applicable
  • Your child’s mental health and any mental illness he or she has
  • Whether your child has had past injuries, including fractures and head injuries, that could increase the risk of future injuries

During sports physical activity, special attention is likely to be paid to the health of the heart. Until suddenly cardiac deaths remain rare in young athletesthey have been in the news more often in recent years.

If your family has a history of heart problems, including high blood pressure or heart disease, speak up. Your provider will want to ensure that your child has no red flags that prevent safe participation in sports.

The same goes for mental health. In some cases, participating in a high-demand sport can put more pressure on children who are already stressed. Discuss any concerns you have about symptoms of depression or anxiety during this visit.

When should I schedule a sports exam?
While you should double-check the requirements for your child’s specific sport, it’s generally a good idea to have a sports physical between six and eight weeks before the start of the season.

This period of time ensures that you have an accurate picture of your child’s health just before intense physical activity begins. It also means that many issues found during the physical can be resolved before the season starts.

If your child needs a sports physical, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician or family medicine provider. Need a supplier? Find one here.

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