How and Why Should I Get a Sports Physical?

What should a parent do when they realize that the sports physical form is due soon? I hope your first call would be to your pediatrician’s office! If your child had a check-up or any type of yearly well office visit, you probably just have to drop off the sheet to be filled out. If your child has not had a check up, most pediatricians do their best to try and get you in quickly. But what is the purpose of these physicals?

It is very important to have a thorough exam before being cleared for sports. With knowledge of long-term problems from concussions, risk of sudden death from undiagnosed heart problems, and asthma attacks triggered by exercise, the exam is to ensure that the sport is safe for your body.

The first part of the physical is the history, including family history. There are certain medical conditions that can be silent on exam and not cause any problems in every-day living, and sometimes the family history is the only warning. To get the most out of the exam for this part, it is helpful to take a little time at home to fill it out with your child, and ask family members for updates on any medical problems that could be relevant.

The physician physically examining the athlete is the other component to the sports physical. A thorough head-to-toe exam is required at a minimum. Everything from vital signs to vision to plotting height and weight on the growth chart serve a purpose and tell a story of health for a person.

The physical exam is also coupled with a number of questions in the history to rule out risk of any underlying problems that could have shown no warning signs before in every day functions. Even if you are not an athlete and have no need for a sports physical, I cannot overstress the importance of seeing your doctor annually for a check-up for this same reason.

You may have several last-minute options for getting the form completed. However, I would encourage you to have it done by the pediatrician or physician that knows you and your family and that sees you regularly. They will be the one to recognize subtle changes that could easily be missed by going to someone who has never seen your child before.

This is also a good time for parents and children to ask your doctor questions about anything. This is your time with your physician each year to make sure there are no serious medical problems going on, that there are no concerns for issues that could prevent you from having fun and participating in sports, but also to ask any confidential questions that you want. This is also time for anticipatory guidance, to discuss things that may come up in the next year before your next physical exam. So make sure that you use this time to your advantage and get the most out of your appointment!

Jennifer Adair M.D.

Jennifer Adair, M.D., was born and raised in Mobile. She graduated from Davidson High School in 2002 and received her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at The University of Alabama in 2006. She completed her medical training at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, and pediatric residency at the University of Nevada College of Medicine – Las Vegas and the University of South Alabama. She joined Children’s Medical Group in July 2013 and currently practices at their Airport office. Jennifer and her husband, Cory, reside in Mobile with their dogs, Fitz and Barkley.