School sports physicals
Thomas Anderson, D.O., is a family physician with Columbine Family Practice in Loveland, Colorado.
Question: I found out that for my daughter to start volleyball practice, she has to have a form signed and get a “pre-participation physical.” What happens at this physical and can we go to one of those clinics where they have stations and you cycle through to get your physical and your form signed?
Answer: The Colorado High School Activities Association requires schools to have signed forms that say a student athlete has passed a pre-participation physical. When this group formed, one of its first actions was to implement this requirement to protect the health of student athletes. Even if the state doesn’t require a sports physical, it is highly recommended that students get one each year.
A sports physical involves two parts: the medical history and the physical exam.
The medical history can show patterns of illness in your family. This is an important component, so take your time when completing it. It will help the physician identify athletes who need further medical evaluation prior to starting the season.
Also, a family practice physician or pediatrician can check to see that the student is current on immunizations.
During the physical exam, the health care provider typically will:
- Record your height and weight
- Take a blood pressure and pulse
- Test your vision
- Check your heart, lungs, abdomen, ears, nose and throat
- Evaluate your posture, joints, strength and flexibility.
During the exam, a physician will look for conditions that may be life threatening, but he or she also has can cover a range of health topics such as exercise induced asthma or other problems that could lead to an injury during the season.
This is also a time for education on topics such as concussions, testicular cancer for boys and human papillomavirus vaccination or eating disorders for girls, drug and alcohol use, depression, anxiety or the use of steroids or nutritional supplements.
Some schools conduct clinics with multiple health care providers doing screenings at stations. They can do physicals for a large number of students often at a reduced cost. However, in these settings, the provider isn’t likely to do a complete health assessment or to talk in detail with the student about important health issues.