Believe it or not, it’s time for student-athletes to get their physicals now for the fall sports season. That way, if a medical issue is discovered that needs to be addressed — and 15 to 20 percent of the time one is found — it gives doctors plenty of time to treat it before kickoff.
“What ends up happening is kids wait until the day before practice begins to get their physical, and that’s way too late,” said Dr. Joseph Congeni, director of Sports Medicine at Akron Children’s Hospital. “Sports physicals should be done more than 6 weeks before the season starts. If something shows up on the physical, there’s enough time to treat it or perform further tests before official practice begins.”
A sports physical can help athletes find out about and deal with health problems that might interfere with their participation in a sport. For example, a soccer player who has frequent asthma attacks might need a different type of inhaler or dosage adjustment for easier breathing during running.
The doctor may even have some good training tips and be able to give athletes some ideas for avoiding injuries. For instance, he may recommend specific exercises, like certain stretching or strengthening activities, that help prevent injuries. A doctor also can identify risk factors that are linked to specific sports. Advice like this will make kids better, stronger athletes.
“Kids might say, ‘I’m having bad headaches now’ or ‘I passed out last month,’ or they might want to ask about supplements they’re taking,” said Dr. Congeni. “So, it’s the perfect time to review all those kinds of things with their doctor. For 70 to 75 percent of kids, this is their only medical interaction in an entire year.”
The best place to go for a sports physical is your child’s primary care doctor. He knows your child — and his history — the best and knows about any changes in his care. If your child no longer has a relationship with a primary care doctor, a sports medicine clinic is the next best thing, said Dr. Congeni.
The 2 main parts to a sports physical are the medical history and the physical exam. For the medical history, doctors look for patterns of illnesses or conditions in the family. This part of the exam includes questions about:
- Serious illnesses among family members
- Illnesses that kids had when they were younger or may have now, such as asthma, diabetes or epilepsy
- Previous hospitalizations or surgeries
- Allergies (to insect bites, for example)
- Past injuries (including concussions, sprains or bone fractures)
- Whether the child has ever passed out, felt dizzy, had chest pain or had trouble breathing during exercise
- Any medications taken (including over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements and prescription medications)
During the physical part of the exam, the doctor usually:
- Records height and weight
- Takes a blood pressure and pulse (heart rate and rhythm) reading
- Tests your child’s vision
- Checks the heart, lungs, abdomen, ears, nose and throat
- Evaluates your child’s posture, joints, strength and flexibility
- Asks about the use of drugs, alcohol or dietary supplements, including steroids or other “performance enhancers” that can affect a child’s health
“In less than 1 percent of cases do we come in and say absolutely you can’t play sports due to a condition,” said Dr. Congeni. “The ultimate goal of the sports physical is to ensure safe participation in sports, not to disqualify participants.”
Families can direct schedule their children’s sports physicals with their pediatrician at Akron Children’s using MyChart. Simply log in to MyChart, select the “Schedule an Appointment” icon and follow the steps from there.
It’s quick and easy, and it’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, as opposed to waiting for open office hours. Parents can log in to MyChart to cancel or confirm upcoming appointments, and they also will receive automatic appointment reminders.
For further questions about direct scheduling or MyChart in general, call 330-543-4400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.