A new school year is just around the corner and many student athletes will be receiving their annual sports physical.
What is a sports physical?
In the sports medicine field, the sports physical exam is known as a preparticipation physical examination (PPE). The exam helps determine whether or not it’s safe for you to participate in a particular sport. Most states require that children and teens have a sports physical before they can start a new sport or begin a new competitive season. Even if a PPE isn’t required, doctors still highly recommend getting one.
The two main parts of a sports physical are the medical history and the physical exam.
This part of the exam includes questions about:
• Serious illnesses among other family members
• Illnesses that you had when you were younger or may currently have, such as asthma, diabetes, or epilepsy
• Previous hospitalizations or surgeries
• Allergies (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 currently taking (including over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements, and prescription medications)
The medical history questions are usually on a form that you can bring home, so ask your parents to help you fill in the answers. If possible, ask both parents about family medical history. Answer the questions as well as you can. Try not to guess the answers or give answers you think your doctor wants.
Looking at patterns of illness in your family is a very good indicator of potential conditions you may have. Most sports medicine doctors believe the medical history is the most important part of the sports physical exam, so take time to answer the questions carefully. It’s unlikely that any health conditions you have will prevent you from completely playing sports.
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 the musculoskeletal system
Why is a sports physical important?
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 helpful 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 also can identify risk factors that are linked to specific sports. Advice like this will make you a better and stronger athlete.
Dr. Zainab Al-Obosi is a family physician at Madison Health Primary Care of London. To make an appointment, call 740-845-7500. The practice is currently accepting new patients, including adults and children.
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