After the kids finish singing “no more pencils and no more books …” you know summer has started. The routine changes to staying up late and sleeping in. But summer is a perfect time to schedule your children’s sports physicals.
Consider that many active kids have high school sports starting well before the school year. Plus, many kids may compete in local club sports. Add in camps, vacations, sleepovers, golf lessons and several other appointments, and schedules fill quickly.
Although tight schedules can make it tough to squeeze everything in, you don’t want to miss the sports physicals. "Just as adults should talk with a physician before starting any new exercise program, children need to be evaluated prior to participating in a new sport season," said Steven Erickson, MD, a sports medicine physician at Banner Health in Phoenix, AZ. "A sports physical, also called a pre-participation physical exam or PPE, helps determine if it's safe for your child to play a given sport."
Here are some tips to make the process easy and ensure your student athlete is ready for a great season.
5 tips to prepare for sports physicals
- There are many providers who provide sports physicals—medical and osteopathic doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and chiropractors. You can also visit an urgent care for sports physicals. The important thing is to find someone who will spend time with your child, get to know his or her history, examine their physical health and teach about wellness.
- You might be able to save money by making the sports physical part of your child’s annual well-child visit. Typically, the cost of a sports physical is low and can be paid by cash, check or credit card. Because the cost is so low, the provider likely won’t offer to bill your insurance. However, if your child is on Medicaid and you don’t have the money for the physical, ask if you can schedule a well-child check instead. This is covered by most insurances, including Medicaid. The well-child check is more comprehensive than the typical sports physical so you must mention this when you schedule. Check with your insurance provider for the details on what your cost may be.
- Choose a location where you can schedule an appointment, which includes Banner Urgent Care locations. This allows you to arrive at a set time, see your provider and be on your way. Sports physical clinics done on a first-come, first-serve basis can be convenient—if you arrive first.
- Bring the forms that your school requires to your appointment. Don’t assume the clinic will have your school’s paperwork on hand or you could be making a second trip back to get the required signatures.
- Take advantage of the time you have to ask questions of the health care provider. Does your child have nagging, sports-related injuries? Do you have concerns about recognizing a concussion? Do you need help discussing sensitive topics with your teen like eating disorders, drug and alcohol use or sexually transmitted diseases?
What to expect during your child's sport physical
During the physical exam, your child’s height, weight, blood pressure and pulse will be recorded. Posture, strength, flexibility and joint function will be evaluated, and your child’s heart, lungs, and abdomen will be examined. Vision will be tested, and the ears, nose and throat will be checked.
“Using this information, the provider can address any health concerns that could interfere with your child’s chosen activity, make adjustments to medications, and provide advice on how best to maximize sports performance,” Dr. Erickson said. “An annual PPE also allows providers to educate young athletes about heat illness, supplement use, concussion, and other sports-related health issues.”
Another important component of the pre-participation evaluation is baseline concussion testing. Baseline testing is a way to measure normal neurological function. “Should the athlete suffer a concussion, that baseline exam can help clinicians follow recovery and aid in return to school and return to play determinations,” said Dr. Erickson.
As school nears, plenty of things will fill your calendar. Get the sports physical out of the way now so your student athlete is ready to hit the field. Or pool. Or court. Or links. Or gridiron. Or pitch. Or whichever venue hosts your child’s sport of choice. And best wishes for a great season.
To schedule an appointment for your child's PPE with a Banner health care provider, go to bannerhealth.com. Sports physicals are also offered at all Banner urgent care locations.
This post was originally published June 2018 and has been updated.