A well known fact is that sports helps keep a person fit. But one might not know why the physical you may have to take at the beginning of your sports season is so important.
In the sports medicine field, the sports physical exam is known as a preparticipation physical examination (PPE). The exam helps determine whether it's safe for an individual to participate in a particular sport. Most states actually require that kids and teens have a sports physical before they can start a new sport or begin a new competitive season. But even if a PPE isn't required, doctors still highly recommend them.
There are two main parts to a sport physical: the medical history and the physical exam.
Medical history. This part of the exam includes questions about:
Serious illnesses among other family members, illnesses that you had when you were younger or may have now, such as asthma, diabetes, or epilepsy, previous hospitalizations or surgeries, allergies (to insect bites, for example), past injuries (including concussions, sprains, or bone fractures), whether you've ever passed out, felt dizzy, had chest pain, or had trouble breathing during exercise, any medications that you are on (including over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements, and prescription medications).
Looking at patterns of illness in your family is a very good indicator of any potential conditions you may have.
Important parts of a child's history that might indicate he is at risk of having health problems while playing sports include:
Having symptoms while exercising, including chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue or syncope/near-syncope (fainting), having a heart murmur or high blood pressure in the past and having other family members with a 'history of premature death (sudden or otherwise), or significant disability from cardiovascular disease in close relative(s) younger than 50 years old or specific knowledge of the occurrence of certain conditions (eg, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, dilated cardiomyopathy, long QT syndrome, Marfan syndrome, or clinically important arrhythmias)'.
Physical examination. During the physical part of the exam, the doctor will usually:
Record your height and weight, take a blood pressure and pulse (heart rate and rhythm) reading, test your vision, check your heart, lungs, abdomen, ears, nose, and throat, evaluate your posture, joints, strength, and flexibility.
Although most aspects of the exam will be the same for males and females, if a person has started or already gone through puberty, the doctor may ask girls and boys different questions. Some schools may require that a PPE include an electrocardiogram, or EKG, for all athletes. An EKG, which takes about 10 minutes, measures the electrical activity of a person's heart. At the end of your exam, the doctor will either fill out and sign a form if everything checks out satisfactory or, in some cases, recommend a follow-up exam, additional tests, or specific treatment for medical problems.
A sports physical can help you find out about and deal with health problems that might interfere with your participation in a sport. For example, if you have frequent asthma attacks but are a starting forward in soccer, a doctor might be able to prescribe a different type of inhaler or adjust the dosage so that you can breathe more easily when you run.
Your doctor may even have some good training tips and be able to give you some ideas for avoiding injuries. For example, he or she may recommend specific exercises, like certain stretching or strengthening activities that help prevent injuries. A doctor can also identify risk factors that are linked to specific sports. Advice like this will make you a better, stronger athlete.
Getting a sports physical once a year is usually adequate. If you're healing from a major injury, like a broken wrist or ankle, however, get checked out after it's healed before you start practicing or playing again.
We currently perform Sports Walk-in Physicals for Residents of Maryland (MD), Washington DC, and Northern Virginia (VA). We perform Pre Participation physical exams for most types of sports including: Baseball, Football, Soccer, Basketball, Hockey, and more.