What to Expect at a Sports Physical

By: Dr. Cheryl Martin-Foster, Family Medicine at Meriter Fitchburg

As summer winds down, it is time to get ready for the start of school. If your child participates in fall sports, part of preparing for school is scheduling a sports physical before the first day of practice arrives. In order for your child to participate in sports at school, your child must have a sports physical completed every two years by a medical provider showing that your child is healthy and physically ready to participate in sports.

Medical History
Before you schedule your child’s sports physical, you will have to complete a sports history questionnaire that asks several questions about your child’s health and family health history. Some of the questions you will have to answer include the following:

  • Do you have an early family history of heart disease?
  • Do you have a history of seizures?
  • Do you have any history of broken bones or sprains? If so, are there any residual problems?
  • Do you have a chest pain or shortness of breath when exercising?

Physical Examination
Before the provider beings the exam, a nurse will take your child’s height, weight, blood pressure and pulse. Then, the provider will check the patient’s reflexes. For example, the provider will check the biceps reflex with a small hammer at the inside of the elbow on both sides as well as the patellar reflexes at both knees. The reflexes are testing the function of a specific nerve and should be equal on both sides.

The provider will also check joint mobility and range of motion. This will include checking the movement of the neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees and ankles. A few tests the provider might complete include hopping on one foot to test the ankles and walking like a duck to check the hips and knees.

The provider will also check heart to see if it sounds normal or if there is a murmur. If there is a complaint of chest pain or there are other possible heart-related concerns, the provider might order an electrocardiogram to examine your child’s heart. The provider will also check the lungs to make sure air is moving well and no wheezing that could indicate difficulty breathing especially with exercise. The ears, nose, throat, abdomen, feet and back will also be checked during the exam.

After the physical examination is completed, your provider will fill out the form indicating if the child can play sports without restriction, with restriction or if further testing and follow up is needed. If your child needs a sports physical, request an appointment online today!

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