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What to Expect at Your Child’s Sports Physical

Child’s Sports Physical; Little boy with mother at orthopedist's office

Is your child beginning a new sport or joining a new league or team? Chances are, they’ll have to have a sports physical before they can play. If your child is new to playing sports or you are simply unsure of what this physical will entail, we have made a little guide of what you can expect during your child’s sports physical.

Why Are Sports Physicals Important?

Often called a preparticipation physical examination (PPE), a sports physical determines if your child is physically healthy enough to play a certain sport. It is important that your child is cleared to play a sport to avoid sports-related injuries and health issues later on.

The PPE can pinpoint issues your child may run into while playing a specific sport. However, that does not always mean your child will not be able to participate in that sport. If a doctor detects and issue, they can also prescribe treatment to help your child more safely participate. Doctors can even give children and parents tips for avoiding injury.

It should be noted that sports physicals should not replace regular physicals. It may seem like a lot, but because a regular physical is different, it is important to stay up to date with those annually. Sports physicals generally look at physical health as it will relate to athletic issues. Regular physicals are not as specific, but more comprehensive.

What is Included in a Sports Physical?

A sports physical or PPE generally consists of two parts– a review of medical history and a physical exam.

During the first portion of the exam, you and your child will be asked questions about both the child’s personal and family medical history. You may have to help your child answer some of these questions. Here are the areas you can expect to be discussed:

  • Previous illnesses your child has had
  • Any current illnesses your child has now
  • Allergies (for example: to certain medications, insect bites or stings, or food)
  • Past injuries like sprains, concussions, and bone fractures
  • Any past hospitalizations or surgeries
  • Whether your child has ever had problems breathing, felt dizzy, passed out, or had chest pain while exercising or playing sports.
  • Any medications currently being taken, including prescriptions, over the counter medication, and herbal supplements/remedies.

The doctor will also ask questions about the use of drugs and alcohol, as well as any dietary supplements including performance enhancers, steroids, or weight loss aids.

The second part of the sports physical will be a physical examination. During this exam, the doctor will focus on areas that are pertinent to the sport in question. The doctor will check the following:

  • Height and weight
  • Blood pressure and pulse
  • Heart and lung sounds
  • The abdomen
  • Ears, nose, and throat
  • Vision
  • Posture and joints
  • Strength
  • Flexibility

Exams are generally the same for males and females, although as your child approaches and enters puberty, the questions asked at the beginning and during the exam may be different. 

When do Kids Need Sports Physicals?

When kids should start getting sports physicals depends on a number of factors. Some states require PPEs before a child can participate in the sport. In this case, the required sports physicals will most likely begin in seventh grade.

Other times you might want to get a sports physical for your child or consult the pediatrician before they a new sport because of existing health issues or a history of certain conditions. If your child has a chronic condition, you are likely already well versed in what needs to be done in this regard. Getting the opinion of your child’s pediatrician can help ease your mind and ensure your child is as safe as possible.

Even if your state does not require a sports physical and you do not have any concerns about your child’s ability to safety you should still have them done regularly. Generally, having one sports physical each year is recommended unless there have been injuries. An injury will need to be checked to make sure it has healed properly before resuming athletic activity. 

Where Do You Go for a Child’s Sports Physical?

It’s best for your child to have a sports physical with their regular pediatrician, as they are already familiar with your child’s medical history and will be more apt to identify any potential concerns.

At Kernodle Pediatrics, we are invested in your child’s overall health and wellbeing. Along with physical health, pediatric care includes emotional, social, and mental health. And ensuring their physical safety while participating in athletics definitely falls under that umbrella. 

Contact Kernodle Pediatrics at our Mebane office at 919-563-2500 or our Elon office 336-539-2416 to ask about sports physicals or schedule an appointment.


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