Every year we hear of young athletes who have suddenly fallen and/or suffered serious unexpected physical injuries. Some have even died during or right after playing a sporting event. As with serious illnesses, many of these instances might have been prevented had thorough examinations and histories been done.
Sports physicals, also called a pre-participation exam (PPE), are a very important component of the active child or teens physical. These examinations help determine whether it’s safe for a child or adolescent to participate in a physical activity. Most schools require a sports physical prior to joining any competitive sports program at the school. However, even if one isn’t required, it is still highly recommended for your child to have one prior to joining a team.
During a sports physical, your child’s healthcare provider will obtain a full medical history, injury history, medical history, cardiovascular history, take vitals and perform a general examination. As part of the general examination, he/she will check for history of bone fractures, knee and other joint instabilities (which could lead to injury), irregular heartbeats or history of family members with this (can lead to sudden death during sports competitions), as well as any other physical abnormalities which may impact the ability to play a competitive sport or could lead to injury. Furthermore, he/she can discuss appropriate protective wear when appropriate.
Overall, a sports physical helps maximize safe participation in physical activity, identify life threatening conditions such as heart conditions, helps identify conditions such as concussions which should limit participation and helps identify lung conditions or eating disorders that could limit sports participation.
Other issues that can be addressed are old musculoskeletal injuries that may warrant rehabilitation and also provide a time to advise adolescents and children as to which sport may be more appropriate for them to play and what safety measures to take while playing their sport(s) of choice. This is a focused time to discuss all issues and concerns related to sports participation and for appropriate specialty referrals to be made by your provider when necessary for clearances and for added health safety for your child.
Once on a team, your child should have a yearly sports clearance examination. Knowing your child has been medically cleared to participate safely can make it even more enjoyable to sit on the sidelines and cheer!
Luis Velasquez MD, FAAP
Director of Pediatrics
Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center