Playing a sport is a great way for young adults to stay active, get in shape, make friends and learn teamwork. Whatever sport your teenager wants to play, there could be a risk of physical injury. Broken arms, sprained ankles and asthma are just some of the medical issues that could pop up when playing sports.
To avoid exacerbation of an existing condition, many schools and teams require the completion of a physical exam. These checkups can help your teen prepare for the upcoming season and determine if there are any undiagnosed medical conditions. Even if a school or team doesn’t require a physical, it's a good idea for anyone participating in a sport to get checked before starting a new physically demanding activity. Getting an exam establishes a baseline of health, identifies conditions that should be treated, or, in rare cases, rules out participation.
What is a sports physical?
A sports exam is somewhat different from a teen’s regular physical. The doctor looks specifically for diseases and injuries that could make it unsafe to play a sport. For instance, if a physician finds a heart problem, such as a murmur, this could rule out intense physical exercise. If a problem is suspected, a physician may order further tests to confirm the presence of disease.
What kind of information will the doctor need for the exam?
Your teen’s physical exam will start with an in-depth look at medical history. This will include information on hospitalizations, past injuries, illnesses and anything else that could affect your teenager’s health. Before going to the appointment, get a copy of your teen’s medical records. The doctor will probably ask that you fill out a health history form requesting information on some of the following:
● High blood pressure
● Eating disorders
● Shortness of breath or chest pain while exercising
● Liver or kidney problems
● Vision problems
● Skin problems
● Medication history
The doctor will review blood pressure, listen to the heart and lungs, check vision and hearing, and may screen for cholesterol. The physician also might check reflexes, coordination and strength.
When should a sports physical take place?
The exam should happen six to eight weeks before the season. This gives the doctor time to run tests, treat a condition or refer the student to a specialist if needed.
If everything checks out during the exam, the doctor will provide the go-ahead to play without any restrictions. If there is some concern, the doctor may recommend precautions, such as carrying an inhaler for asthma or using protective equipment while playing. When a serious problem is identified, the doctor will not clear a teen for sports. The physician will likely recommend further tests and treatments.
Dr. LeGras is a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and has been with the Pediatric Cardiology Center of Oregon since 1996. He attended McGill University in Montreal for his Bachelor of Science and medical school. He did an internship at the University of Manitoba and his pediatrics residency and pediatric cardiology fellowship at the University of Toronto, Toronto Hospital for Sick Children. Dr. LeGras then completed a fellowship in pediatric electrophysiology and pacing at Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children’s Hospital in 1993. He was an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Western Ontario, Children’s Hospital of Western Ontario in London prior to moving to Portland.
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