What is a sports physical?
Sports physicals, also called a pre-participation exams, are needed before athletes can begin competing. The exam usually consists of medical history and a physical exam and can make sure that the athlete is healthy enough to participate.
Why are sports physicals necessary?
Most teens who participate in sports are anxious to get in the game. For their safety, however, many schools require a sports physical, also called a pre-participation exam (PPE), before an athlete is cleared to play. In the United States, millions of athletes — including teens — undergo sports physicals before they can begin competing.
Sports physicals are intended to determine if an athlete is healthy enough to participate in sports and to help minimize the risk of sports-related injuries. Athletes are seeking medical clearance so they can train and compete safely.
The physical is designed to identify any high-risk disorder or condition that might affect an athlete's ability to play. The exam might also help determine the athlete's safe level of activity, which can have an impact on performance. If an existing injury or potential problem is identified during the sports exam, action can be taken to avoid future problems and to rehabilitate an existing injury.
The extent of the physical varies among doctors, but the goals of the exam are generally the same. Among the goals of the exam are to evaluate:
- The athlete's general health.
- The athlete's current fitness level.
- Any existing injuries.
- Any condition that might increase the athlete's risk of injury.
- The athlete's level of physical maturity.
A sports physical is different than the annual physical because it focuses on reviewing your child’s current health status and medical history to ensure that your child is healthy enough to play his or her sport. Your physician will review any preexisting injuries and assess your child’s current fitness level to determine that there is no risk for your child playing his or her sport. If your physician detects any conditions that may put your child at risk, further tests will be conducted to ensure the safety of your child on and off the field. Many of these tests are done to ensure that your child does not have any congenital abnormalities that could put your child’s health in danger. The areas of focus during your child’s sports physical typically include:
- Height and weight
- Vision and hearing
- Heart health
- Blood pressure
- Muscle and bone health, flexibility and strength