Does My Child Need a Sports Physical?

Q: My child wants to join a sports team.  Is there anything special I need to do from a medical standpoint?

A: ALL high school athletes must have a pre-participation physical evaluation (medical exam) on file to try out and play a high school sport.  Many children are participating in extra-curricular/club sports before they enter high school. The popular Pop Warner football program is an example of a club sport for the younger child.  Children participating in these sports programs will also need pre-participation evaluations.

The screening must be done in a timely fashion, and done correctly, to ensure prevention an injury, and even death of the athlete.  The pre-participation exam can screen for heart conditions, breathing problems and joint problems that may need to be addressed before the child can play or practice. Similarly, the exam can educate the family on prevention of complications related to conditions like diabetes, or concussions. The provider can also counsel the child on proper nutrition for their sport, discus with the child overtraining; and talk with the parents on monitoring for overuse injuries.

It is important to have the exam done WELL IN ADVANCE of the sport season, in case a heart, lung or neurological evaluation needs to be done as a result of a screening.  If there is a possibility of your child being involved in a sport in the next school year, it is recommended that the screening be done in the early to the middle of summer. Please contact your child’s health care provider if you would like more information on a pre-participation physical evaluation.

By Dr. Jennifer Hunt, pediatrician, ThedaCare Physicians-Pediatrics in Appleton.