With the uncertainty surrounding kids and the fall sports season due to the increasing spread of COVID-19, many families are wondering if sports physicals are even necessary this year.
“Even if you’re not sure if your child will play in the fall, I recommend your child gets a sports physical,” he said. “During the lockdown this spring, kids weren’t playing sports and may not be properly trained to start this fall. Also, a health issue could have developed during that downtime, such as weight gain or an asthma flare-up.”
In addition, it’s a good time to redevelop your provider-patient relationship since many kids haven’t been evaluated in recent months due to COVID-19.
So, believe it or not, now is the best time for student athletes to get their physicals for the fall sports season. That way, if a medical issue is discovered that needs to be addressed — and 15% to 20% of the time one is found — it gives providers plenty of time to address it before kickoff.
“Sports physicals should be done more than 6 weeks before the season starts,” said Dr. Congeni. “If something shows up on the physical, there’s enough time to treat it or perform further tests before official practice begins.
“It’s very rare that we would come in and say, ‘Absolutely you can’t play sports due to a condition,’” he continued. “The ultimate goal of the sports physical is to ensure safe participation in sports, not to disqualify participants.”
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 provider may have some good training tips and be able to give athletes some ideas for avoiding injuries. He may recommend specific exercises, like certain stretching or strengthening activities that help prevent injuries. A provider 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 provider. For 70% to 75% 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 provider. He knows your child — and his history — the best and knows about any changes in his care. If your child does not have a relationship with a primary care provider, a sports medicine clinic is the next best thing, said Dr. Congeni.
Sports physicals are available all year long through your child’s primary care physician and at Akron Children’s Sports Medicine locations. Akron Children’s 4 Urgent Care locations are also offering sports physicals through Oct. 30.
Sports Physicals: What to Expect
A sports physical consists of a medical history and the physical exam. For the medical history, providers 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 provider 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.
Call your primary care provider, Akron Children’s Sports Medicine or Urgent Care to schedule a sports physical. The completed Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) form must be presented at the appointment.