TrustCare | What to Expect During Your Child’s Sports Physical

What to Expect During Your Child’s Sports Physical

in Blog TrustCare Kids

About 60 million children and teens participate in organized sports each year. If your child is one of them, put getting a sports physical on your summer to-do list.

The goal (pun intended!) of this blog is to provide parents with a clear understanding of what to expect during your child’s sports physical, how you can prepare ahead of time, how sports physicals help prevent future injuries, and more.

With children starting their competitive sports careers as young as preschool age – and sports injuries ranked as the second-highest cause of ER visits for kids – it’s never too early to learn about the importance of sports physicals. Ready, set, go!

Scheduling Your Child’s Sports Physical

Sports physicals help athletes of all ages learn about and manage any health problems that could interfere with their participation in sports. If a certain sport isn’t safe for your child, it’s essential to know before they begin playing. You should schedule your child’s sports physical at least 6 weeks before the season begins, so there’s enough time to test and/or treat any detected issues.

Sports physicals are usually good for one year, although you may have to complete a form each season (especially if there are changes in your child’s health, such as a new injury or new symptoms). Always let your child’s coach know about any changes in your child’s health.

Sports physicals are not intended to replace regular checkups, which are still very important for your child’s overall health and well-being. But with a little pre-planning, you may be able to have both exams done during one convenient visit. When scheduling your child’s annual wellness exam visit, ask if you can schedule a sports physical at the same time (or vice versa). Everyone wins!

The Game Plan: Preparing for Your Child’s Sports Physical

Sports teams always have a game plan – you should have one, too.

One of the best things you can do ahead of time is to carefully review your child’s medical history, including any past illnesses, chronic conditions, hospitalizations or surgeries, and family health issues. Take notes and bring them with you to the doctor’s office if necessary.

If you’re concerned about any other health issues related to sports, make a list of those as well. For example:

  • Nutrition
  • Hydration
  • Proper sleep
  • Puberty and hormone changes
  • Mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression

The night before and morning of your child’s sports physical

Ideally, your child should get a good night’s sleep before their sports physical. Make sure they stay hydrated and eat a balanced meal before the exam. Your child should also wear loose, comfortable clothing that allows for full movement and flexibility.

A Step-by-Step Breakdown of a Sports Physical

Sports physicals consist of two main parts: a medical history and a physical exam.

In addition to the medical history information described above, the doctor will likely ask if your child:

  • Is currently taking any medications (including prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, or supplements)
  • Has ever had concussions, broken bones, sprains, strains, or other past sports injuries
  • Has ever experienced chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, or fainting while playing sports
  • Wears contact lenses or glasses
  • Has braces or wears a dental appliance
  • Has allergies or a history of allergic reactions
  • Has lost or gained weight recently
  • Has any other conditions that could make it challenging or unsafe to participate in sports

The physical exam portion is similar to an annual checkup, with some additional items related to playing sports. During the exam, your doctor will likely:

  • Measure your child’s height and weight
  • Take their blood pressure and pulse
  • Test their vision
  • Check their heart, lungs, abdomen, ears, nose, and throat
  • Check their joint strength, flexibility, and posture

If everything looks good, the doctor will complete and sign your child’s sports physical form. If there are concerns, the doctor may prescribe medication, schedule a follow-up exam, perform more tests, or recommend physical therapy to help your child play their preferred sport(s) safely. For instance, if your child has asthma, the doctor may adjust their medication so they can breathe more easily when running.

If your child is not medically cleared to play a certain sport, there are likely many other sports that your child can safely play and enjoy.

The Finish Line: Q&A

We encourage you to be proactive and ask questions, even if your child gets the green light to play their sport(s) of choice. For example:

  • Are there any areas of concern based on our family’s medical history?
  • What vaccinations does my child need before playing sports?
  • Are there any medications or supplements my child should avoid taking?
  • What should I do if my child experiences pain or discomfort while playing?
  • When should I schedule my child’s next sports physical?

Enhancing Your Child’s Athletic Experience

There’s no doubt that sports physicals are a crucial step in ensuring your child’s safety while playing sports. However, they can also provide valuable insights that enhance their athletic experience and performance.

For example, if your child uses improper mechanics while running, they are at a higher risk of developing overuse injuries. The doctor can recommend corrective exercises or refer your child to a physical therapist to improve their running form, reducing their risk of future injury.

Sports physicals also help determine if your child has underlying health issues or physical development concerns that may not align with their chosen sport(s), saving your child the frustration of participating in activities that are too physically demanding for them.

Remember, if the doctor finds a reason that your child shouldn’t play a certain sport, they can often provide clearance for alternate sports. The purpose of a sports physical is to make sure your child is safe while playing sports – not to stop them from playing at all.

Sports Physicals at TrustCare

With multiple locations and convenient hours, TrustCare makes it easy for busy families to get the care they need. We offer sports physicals and other urgent care services on a walk-in basis and pediatric primary care by appointment. Talk about a win! Visit your nearest TrustCare today.

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