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The Importance of Sports Physicals For Student Athletes

Taking your child in for an annual sports physical may seem trivial, especially if your son or daughter is by all appearances a perfectly healthy individual. While the annual physical may not seem important, pre-participation exams are endorsed by the National Federation of State High School Associations and are intended to identify children who may be at risk while playing sports.

Memorial Hospital and Converse County School District #1 are committed to providing a safe and supportive environment for all students. As part of that commitment, the district requires all Bearcat student-athletes undergo an annual sports physical before the first practice of their respective sport is held.

The primary goal of the sports physical is to maximize the health of student-athletes and ensure they don’t have any pre-existing medical conditions that may be worsened by participating in sports. The physical exam may detect conditions that make the student-athlete more likely to suffer illness or injury playing sports, allowing parents to make informed decisions regarding their participation in athletics. Student-athletes with identified pre-existing conditions will also have the opportunity to develop strategies to prevent injuries in conjunction with their doctor should they decide to participate in athletics.

Medical clearance to participate in sports is determined following the physical exam with consideration for the demands of specific sports. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the exam include a complete medical history and physical component, including measuring blood pressure, listening to the heart while lying and standing, and looking into aspects of your child’s medical history that may indicate increased risk from participation in sports including symptoms occurring upon exertion, a history of heart murmur or high blood pressure, and significant family history of premature death or disability.

The physical exam typically focuses on the cardiovascular, neurologic and musculoskeletal systems. Many medical and athletic organizations in the United States don’t typically recommend extensive cardiac screening using an electrocardiogram (EKG) and blood or urine testing in patients without relevant indications to do so. Student-athletes with a history of heart or lung disease, diabetes, exercise-induced conditions, bleeding disorders, musculoskeletal issues or a history of head injuries or neurologic issues may require more in-depth examination.

While sports physicals are available through a variety of doctors, there are benefits to seeing a doctor who is familiar with your child’s developmental history. If your child plays sports annually, the exam can be timed to serve as your recommended annual physical. Seeing a doctor who is familiar with your child will allow them to evaluate development over time and makes it more likely to identify chronic issues.

If you’re seeing your regular physician for the sports physical, it may also provide an opportunity to discuss other important topics including academic performance, nutrition, safety, drug and alcohol use, mental health issues, and puberty. A sports physical can also be an opportunity for your doctor to provide personalized training tips and injury-prevention strategies. Identifying the best strength and flexibility routines that take into consideration the risk factors for specific sports can help improve your performance on the field.

School sports provide opportunities for student-athletes to engage in competition and work on personal development and the application of steady effort on and off the field. While Memorial Hospital believes in the benefits of athletic competition, the priority is always the health and safety of all competitors. Participating in Bearcat athletics should always be a safe and enjoyable experience that starts with the annual sports physical for all participants.

For more information on the Annual Sports Physical Event at Memorial Hospital of Converse County, click here!