Sports Physicals time is here!
You already know that playing sports helps keep you fit. You also know that sports are a fun way to socialize and meet people. But you might not know why it’s so important to get a sports physical at the beginning of your sports season.
What Is a Sports Physical?
In the sports medicine field, the sports physical exam is known as a preparticipation physical examination (PPE). The exam helps determine whether it’s safe for you to participate in a certain sport. Most states actually require that kids and teens have a sports physical before they can start a new sport or begin a new competitive season. But even if a sports physical isn’t required, doctors still highly recommend getting one.
This part of the exam includes questions about:
- serious illnesses among family members
- illnesses that you had when you were younger or may have now, such as asthma, diabetes, or epilepsy
- previous hospitalizations or surgeries
- allergies (to insect bites, for example)
- past injuries (including concussions, sprains, or bone fractures)
- whether you’ve ever passed out, felt dizzy, had chest pain, or had trouble breathing during exercise
- any medications that you are on (including over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements, and prescription medications)
The medical history questions are usually on a form that you can bring home, so ask your parents to help you fill in the answers. If possible, ask both parents about family medical history.
Answer the questions as well as you can. Try not to guess the answers or give answers you think your doctor wants.
Looking at patterns of illness in your family is a good way to consider possible conditions you may have. Most sports medicine doctors believe the medical history is the most important part of the sports physical exam, so take time to answer the questions carefully. It’s unlikely that your answers will prevent you from playing your sports.
During the physical part of the exam, the doctor will usually:
- record your height and weight
- take a blood pressure and pulse (heart rate and rhythm)
- test your vision
- check your heart, lungs, abdomen, ears, nose, and throat
- evaluate your posture, joints, strength, and flexibility
Although most of the exam will be the same for males and females, if a person has started or already gone through puberty, the doctor may ask girls and guys different questions. For example, if a girl is heavily involved in a lot of active sports, the doctor may ask her about her period and diet to make sure she doesn’t have something like female athlete triad (poor nutrition, irregular or absent periods, and weak bones).
A doctor will also ask questions about use of drugs, alcohol, or dietary supplements, including steroids or other “performance enhancers” and weight-loss supplements, because these can affect a person’s health.
At the end of your exam, the doctor will either fill out and sign a form if everything checks out OK or, in some cases, recommend a follow-up exam, additional tests, or specific treatment for medical problems.