If your child plays sports, you’ll want to make sure they are physically ready to compete when school starts. Sports physicals play a crucial role in preventing dangerous sports injuries and are required by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association and the Virginia High School League.
“There are numerous benefits to physical activity,” said Dr. Eric Warren of Novant Health Waxhaw Family & Sports Medicine. “But you want to make sure your child is safe and that their body can handle what they want to do.”
Here’s what you need to know about sports physicals and why having them with your child’s primary care provider is important.
What are sports physicals?
Sports physicals are largely a history taking exercise, Warren said. The high school athletic association has a thorough health history questionnaire that has to be completed ahead of time and be signed off on by a parent/guardian and the student athlete.
“The questionnaire asks about any symptoms associated with exercise, family history, medications, medical conditions and concussion history,” Warren said.
The physical portion of the sports physical exam is aimed in large part toward the heart, lung and musculoskeletal system.
“We want to make sure student athletes can physically do what they want to do,” Warren said. “We are basically answering the question, ‘Can you participate in sports or not?’”
Sports physicals also include checking that vital signs, like blood pressure, pulse and vision, are normal. Warren said it’s also a good opportunity to discuss body mass index (BMI) and weight.
In North Carolina, sports physicals are good for 395 days. In Virginia, sports physicals are valid for 14 months.
Why are they important?
Sports physicals are important because they evaluate whether a student is physically able to handle the sport or activity they want to do.
“In large part, we do sports physicals to make sure students’ hearts are healthy,” Warren said. “Sudden cardiac death is an infrequent thing that can happen with athletes, and we want to make sure we avoid it if at all possible.
Warren said sports physicals should not take the place of a student’s annual well checkup.
“During a sports physical, we are not doing a complete physical exam,” Warren said. “We aren’t doing the screening and prevention that is done during a well check exam, and we’re not doing vaccinations.”
Benefits of having it done with your primary care provider?
Having your complete medical record available while getting a sports physical is the absolute best way to make sure something isn’t missed, Warren said.
“Your primary care physician knows you best and is aware of your complete family history,” Warren said. “But if you can’t see your primary care physician, you at least need to make sure you have your medical record with you.”
Novant Health Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine and Novant Health Express Care locations also provide sports physicals and are already linked to MyChart, a free online tool that allows you to securely access your personal medical information from your computer or mobile device.
What to bring?
“If you aren’t going to an office that has access to your full medical record, I encourage people to bring their medical records with them,” Warren said. “A history of bone fractures, surgeries or medications will help the person providing the sports physical make the best call on whether or not the student is able to participate.”
Warren also recommends having a parent present during the sports physical.
“When a parent is present, they help to make sure we are not missing a vital piece of family history,” Warren said.
For more information, visit NovantHealth.org/sportsphysicals.