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A group of elementary aged boys play soccer on a field.

What Are Sport Physicals for Children?

Participating in organized sports offers enormous benefits to children. It promotes physical activity, teaches cooperation and teamwork, and can boost self-esteem. But before a young athlete enjoys the benefits, camaraderie, and fun of playing sports, there’s an important first step — making sure they’ve had a sports physical. Here’s what you need to know:

What Is a Sports Physical?

Most schools and youth sports clubs require clearance from a doctor before a child can participate in organized sports. A sports physical — sometimes called a pre-participation physical — is an appointment with a doctor who will examine your child to make sure they can safely participate in sports.

A sports physical typically involves a complete medical history and a physical exam. You’ll likely have a questionnaire to fill out before your appointment, and the doctor may ask further questions to rule out any underlying conditions that could be exacerbated by playing sports. The health history will cover family history — such as a history of heart disease or other serious illness among family members under the age of 50 — and your child’s personal medical history, including questions about the following:

  • Medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or COVID-19
  • Hospitalizations or surgeries
  • Previous diagnosis of heart murmur
  • Fatigue, dizziness, chest pain, or loss of consciousness during exercise
  • Allergies
  • Past injuries
  • Current medications

The physical exam will typically include a thorough evaluation of your child’s:

  • Height and weight
  • Blood pressure and pulse
  • Vision
  • Heart, lungs, abdomen, ears, nose and throat
  • Posture, joints, strength and flexibility

Benefits of a Sports Physical

It’s a good idea to schedule a sports physical 4 to 8 weeks before the start of sports season, so if the doctor discovers an area of concern, it can be addressed before play begins. In addition to allaying any worries about your child’s health, a sports physical can be the perfect opportunity to get a doctor’s guidance on various issues, including:

  • Possible effects of COVID-19. A COVID-19 infection can affect heart and lung function, so if your child had COVID-19 and experienced moderate or severe symptoms, ask their pediatrician to make sure they’ve recovered enough to play sports.
  • Managing health conditions. If your child has a chronic or recurring condition, discuss with the doctor how best to manage it. For chronic asthma, for example, the doctor can recommend appropriate medications. Or if your child has a history of joint sprains, their pediatrician may suggest a brace to prevent further injury.
  • Safety. Your doctor can educate your child on the importance of safety protocols — such as wearing a helmet to play football — or may recommend physical therapy exercises to prevent injuries.
  • Education. A sports physical can be an important opportunity to get information about diet and other lifestyle choices that can support a young athlete’s health.

Sports Physicals at Norton King’s Daughters’ Health

The pediatricians at Norton King’s Daughters’ Health are dedicated to providing exceptional care that supports a happy, healthy childhood. From infancy through adolescence, your growing child’s health care needs will be met with compassion and expertise. What’s more, your child’s pediatrician can be a valued resource, not only treating illness and injury, but answering any questions you might have about helping your child make healthy choices. If your young athlete needs a sports physical — or a wellness check-up or appointment regarding an acute condition, such as earache or sore throat — visit us on-line to schedule an appointment.

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