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What is a Sports Physical and Who Should Get One?

What is a Sports Physical and Who Should Get One?

A sports physical is not your ordinary yearly exam. Officially known as a preparticipation physical evaluation (PPE), sports physicals are uniquely designed to be sure your child can safely participate in organized sports.

During a sports physical, David Leszkowitz, DO, and the team at White Lake Family Medicine carefully evaluate muscles, bones, and joints to be sure your child isn’t at risk of injuries. While no one can predict sports accidents, a sports physical comes as close as possible to ensuring your child’s body can handle the stress of sports training and regular athletic activities.

We understand that some youth are nervous about what happens during the exam. While we explain things during an exam, this blog gives parents the details they need to prepare children ahead of time.

Defining who needs a sports physical

Every student who wants to participate in school-related competitive sports is required to get a sports physical. If they suffer an injury during the sports season, they need another sports physical before they can return to play.

However, a sports physical is a good idea for any child joining organized athletics or a sports team, even if they’re not required to have an exam.

Our goal during a sports physical is to verify your child can play sports with little to no risk of harm from the strenuous physical requirements. In addition to examining their musculoskeletal system, we consider existing health issues that may need extra care during physical activity.

Take asthma as one example. Kids with asthma often have a flare-up when they begin athletic activities. They can still safely participate if we give them medication to take shortly before their activity begins.

Many parents want to know that their child passes this level of physical health before letting them engage in athletics. If you want that extra reassurance, you can schedule a sports physical at any time.

What to expect during a sports physical

The school gives your child a form with questions about their medical history. Parents should complete their part of the form and bring it to their child’s appointment so we can fill out our part.

Here’s a rundown of what we do during a sports physical:

Overall health

The first part of a sports physical resembles a yearly checkup because we examine:

We also listen to your child’s heart and lungs, check their eyes, ears, nose, and throat, and look for swollen lymph nodes. Then we visually assess their skin for rashes or signs of infections and manually examine their abdomen.

Boys should know that we check the genital area for hernias. If they haven’t had this type of exam before, we fully explain what to expect.

The general medical evaluation also includes reviewing chronic conditions your child may have, such as asthma, allergies, and diabetes. The rest of a sports physical focuses on the things that affect your child’s ability to play sports.

Musculoskeletal exam

If your child had a previous injury, like a torn ligament, sprained ankle, or fracture, we examine that area to be sure the muscles, bones, and supportive tissues have fully healed.

The musculoskeletal assessment focuses on overall strength (of muscles, tendons, and ligaments), range of motion in joints, and joint stability. We also look for bone deformities and signs of weakness that occur when a child has repeated sprains or dislocations.

Neurologic screening

The neurologic screening includes testing motor (muscle) control, senses, and reflexes. We also check for back and neck pain, and discuss prior concussions and existing neurologic conditions.

Heart exam

Sudden death caused by an undetected heart condition is rare in anyone under 35 years of age. However, it happens and when it does, it nearly always occurs during competitive sports. To protect your child, we screen for potential heart concerns by exploring your family history, asking about symptoms caused by heart disease, and checking their pulse in two places.

Students need to have their sports physical on file with the school months before the fall semester begins, so don’t put off scheduling an appointment. Call White Lake Family Medicine or book online today.

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