Health Education Blog

FAQs About Sports Physicals for Kids

Posted by Staff on August 08, 2019

4 teenagers dressed for different sportsKids are resilient. If you have them, you know this! They bounce back from illness quickly, heal from injuries at a rapid pace, and don’t seem to give a second thought to their body’s limitations because…well, they’re rambunctious! Youth is fun, as it should be for them.

As adults, though, it’s our job to take care of them. We are their cleat-toting, snack-passing advocates to ensure those healthy bodies stay that way. Exercise in any form is great for youths, but especially when they play sports. It teaches adolescents responsibility, how to be a part of a team, accountability, camaraderie, how to handle authority, leadership skills, and how to have fun while playing a competitive sport. To play sports most organizations and schools will require a pre-season sports physical.

In fact, sports physicals will be a part of the season from the time they begin playing all the way through college! Basically, it’s a physical meant to find any conditions in the adolescent’s body that may be harmed or aggravated by excessive physical activity. It’s an assessment of their overall physical health, and one that’s worth evaluating even if they aren’t playing sports.

1.  What happens in a Sports Physical?

Don’t worry, this isn’t a trip to the gallows! Getting a sports physical is easy, relatively quick, and painless.

First, the office will take vitals. This includes pulse, breathing rate, temperature, and blood pressure. It’s the first assessment meant to assess immediate health.

Next, the doctor will examine your child’s basic range of motion to ensure there are no constraints in movement and mobility. This will help the doctor determine if it’s safe for your child to play with low risk of sustaining any injuries due to previous conditions. The doctor will be looking at joints, flexibility, and anything that may prevent the adolescent from playing to their full potential.

There will be a quick eye exam, typically reading the letters on the wall from a specified distance. If your child wears glasses or contacts, be sure to let the facility know!

General fitness will be tested. Typically it involves something simple like jumping jacks. This also aids in evaluating range of motion, but mainly it’s for an overall sense of the child’s health.

There’s a possibility of lab work. Sometimes it’s to check basic blood levels including protein and white blood cell count. The purpose of the test is to determine if there are any underlying health conditions. If something is out of the ordinary, more tests may be ordered.

2.  What do I need to bring to a Sports Physical?

Yourselves! Okay, and a few other things too.

You should bring the medical records of whomever is getting the physical. If they have had illnesses, injuries, or surgeries in the past, be sure to bring all the specific paperwork regarding the incident(s). This does not necessarily disqualify your daughter or son from playing a sport. It simply assists the doctor in knowing what to expect in terms of abnormalities, and also what to pay a little extra attention to so your kiddo can receive the best physical possible tailored specifically to them.

Bring a list of any medications your child is taking. Yes, even over-the-counter medication. This helps the doctor determine if your son or daughter is at risk for anything. For example: acetaminophen is great in moderation for aches and pains. But if your adolescent is taking acetaminophen every day it may weaken their vascular system. Even if it seems small, add it to the list. Information never hurts.

Make a note of any changes in behavior, mood, or physical health. This may not seem like it has anything to do with sports, but a sports physical isn’t only about muscles and bones. It’s about the person as a whole. The doctor will want to know how your child is doing, how their behavior is, if they’ve been sick often in recent months, etc. All of these things matter when it comes to your youth.

3.  Why do we need one?

A physical just to play a sport? Why would they be playing if they weren’t capable? We hear you. Keep in mind many injuries go unnoticed during youth. They are brushed off as normal aches and pains. Sometimes they are just that. Sometimes they indicate more – maybe an old sprain? A stress fracture that went undiagnosed? A strained or pulled muscle, ligament, or tendon that was assumed to be soreness and needs a little extra TLC? These are all possible issues.

The good news is, most of the time they are easily cared for. The doctor can help you and your family decide the best course of action when tackling the possibility of an old injury, and may even give you recommendations for things like physical therapy.

Safety is a major factor in sports. When you watch your son or daughter go out onto the field or court to play, you are hoping they do their best and come home to you without injury. The thing is, if you haven’t taken them to a sports physical you won’t know if they are at risk for any injuries. You won’t know how they can lessen the likelihood of getting hurt. A physical before the season can help both you, and your future athlete.

Getting a sports physical before playing in a league of any type is a requirement in some states. They are affordable, and will do a great service to your child before they start the season and get back to school.

boy soccer players

4.  What happens afterwards?

After a sports physical the doctor will sign (and maybe even stamp) his assessment. It will be given to you in a packet to take to the school or organization your child is playing for. You will want to get this to the school or organization prior to the beginning of practices. The sooner, the better!

5.  What is the next step if health issues are discovered?

If for some reason a health issue is discovered, don’t panic. This does not necessarily mean your child will be unable to play. The doctor will discuss the findings with you and your player. They will keep you both well-informed of any concerns they have. Additionally, they will document their concerns for you to take to your primary care provider. There may be more tests required, or a more extensive physical. Your healthcare provider can help you in scheduling those follow-ups before the season.

6.  What are some common issues found or addressed in sports physicals?

It’s not uncommon to discover some health issues during a sports physical.

Typically, they’re treatable and the all-star can continue to play his or her sport of choice. Some typical findings are sports-induced asthma, a strained muscle from a previous injury, scoliosis, and depression. There are treatments available for most of those things, and ways to help work around the issues that can arise from them. As stated above, you’ll be referred to your primary care provider to discuss treatment options and risks, as well as things to be mindful of in regards to these issues.

Sports physicals are meant to evaluate a potential player for any health conditions they are susceptible to. It’s not meant to look for things that may disqualify someone. It’s aimed at protecting a player’s body and health as a whole. It’s for their benefit. Scheduling one is easy, though we recommend making the appointment at least two weeks before it needs to be done. This leaves a little extra time in the unlikely event there is an issue.

Orchard Hospital’s Medical Specialty Center—Your Everyday Health Care Clinic—offers sports physicals for approximately $20, serving the communities of Biggs, Gridley, Richvale, Live Oak, Oroville, and surrounding areas. We offer walk-in care and appointments 7 days a week with our great team of physicians. 


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Our mission at Orchard Hospital is to provide our community with superior healthcare. We strive to ensure that your experience at Orchard Hospital is as pleasant and comfortable as possible. Our priority is to provide you with the care you need when you need it, with skill, compassion, and respect.

Topics: Services, Physical Activity, Physicals

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