Believe it or not, it’s time for student athletes to get their physicals now for the fall sports season. This way, if we find something — and 15 to 20 percent of the time we do — it gives us plenty of time to treat the condition before kickoff. It’s also best to have the sports physical done at your child’s primary care office.
Yesterday, I had the chance to speak with WAKR morning show host Ray Horner about this topic. We discussed the 3 main things we look for during a physical.
Below is an audio file and transcript of our discussion. Originally aired on 1590 WAKR-AM on May 14, 2014.
HORNER: With us right now is our good friend, Dr. Joe Congeni, making a WAKR house call. Good morning, Joe.
DR. CONGENI: Hey, thanks, Ray. That’s a nice intro.
HORNER: [laughter] Hey, what do you have for us today?
DR. CONGENI: Well, you know what, I’ve gotta tell you what time of year it is. You won’t believe it, but … it’s time to get your junior high and high school athletes to start thinking about their physical exam for next sports season.
HORNER: We were just talking about that last night. We had orientation out in Wadsworth and they were saying, “If you’re thinking about fall sports, it’s time to get that done.”
DR. CONGENI: Thank you. Those people out at the University of Wadsworth are amazing.
DR. CONGENI: That’s good. Schools are thinking about it some, but parents a lot of times don’t think about it. Let me explain why [physicals are] important and what we [look for during the] physical.
It starts with a couple of percentages. No. 1, for 70 to 75 percent of kids, this is their only medical interaction in the entire year. Kids in junior high and high school are generally very healthy. Many of them don’t even have a connection with a physician anymore, or don’t go to a doctor.
So for 3/4 of them, it’s the only time they see a doctor. So, it’s really an important interaction.
It’s best done by their primary care doctor. A lot of times you’ll see they are done by sports medicine teams who come into a school. It’s because they ask us to do that because a lot of the kids don’t have a relationship with a primary care doctor. But, the best relationship … is at the primary care office.
What’s expected, from studies that have gone on for 25 years or more, Ray, is 15 to 20 percent of the time, we will find something going on with a kid that needs to be treated or looked at or have something done with it before you get into the sports season. In less than 1 percent [of cases] do we come in and say absolutely you can’t play sports.
If you go to somebody who sees everybody and just signs the form and sends you off, they’re not doing a good physical because on a physical exam, there are things that need to be followed up on.
That’s why now is the perfect time for fall sports. Most parents will wait, you know this. And, there’ll be a glut at our office and everywhere to get in on July 20, on Aug. 15, Aug. 10 [with kids saying], “Hey, I gotta have it by tomorrow.”
Then, when you need to have something done or followed up on, there isn’t enough time before the season starts. And everybody’s mad, the coach is mad, the player’s mad, parents are mad. So, now is the perfect time.
In the physical, there are 3 things that we look for:
- No. 1: we need to screen for life-threatening and catastrophic things. Luckily, those are rare, but we’ll pick up something from the history, like passing out all year. Or, we’ll pick up something like a new murmur that’s unusual that we don’t like, or a blood pressure problem. Something that needs worked up to make sure your kid is not at risk for sudden death. Every parent would want that, of course.
- No. 2: general health problems. For so many kids where this is the only interaction for the year, you need to have your blood pressure checked. We might pick up a hernia. We need to talk about what supplements or meds or other things your kids may be taking and how they might affect sports. Are they ready for heat illness, [or] have they had a concussion in the last year? [We look for] all those medical, general health things.
- And, No. 3 is injuries. We pick up on a lot of injuries that kids are just living with that [can worsen] when the season starts.
So, for instance, a football player that last year had a dislocated shoulder and while he was lifting weights all winter, he became weaker and loose in the shoulder. He is gonna have a problem come Aug. 15. Now’s the time to be seen and they could get treatment between now and the season.
The volleyball player with back pain could get treatment between now and the season.
The cross-country kid with a stress fracture. There’s plenty of time to treat that. If you wait ’til August 15, it’s gonna be too late.
HORNER: Alright, good stuff, Joe. Thanks for coming onboard again. We’ll catch up with you next week.
DR. CONGENI: Alright. Thanks, Ray. Have a great week.
HORNER: You too. Dr. Joe Congeni, Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children’s Hospital, with us.