When your athlete comes home from school with a paper requiring a doctor’s sign-off before they can start the season, getting them in for the sports physical can feel like a chore. But really, the preparticipation sports physical is an opportunity for your child’s primary care physician to catch any underlying problems, check in with your athlete, and make an honest assessment about their readiness for play. Here’s what Dr. Michele LaBotz, TrueSport Expert and sports medicine physician, wants you to know about why and how you can best tackle the sports physical.
It’s an important check-in
From injury recovery to body weight concerns, and irregular heartbeats to concussion recovery assessment, your child’s preparticipation examination isn't just another item to check off the to-do list with as little effort as possible. It’s a legitimate visit to a medical professional to determine if your child is healthy enough to play, and it should be treated seriously.
Since these examinations often end with a simple ‘cleared for play’ stamp of approval, LaBotz says that it’s a task often viewed as an imposition, not a helpful intervention. “If you have a kid who's been really healthy and everything is fine, the physical may feel like a waste of time,” she says. “But I've done enough of these where we’ve found something surprising, like previously unrecognized vision problems or high blood pressure that, if left untreated, could become a lot more serious.”
It may be one of the few doctor visits your child has
“For healthy kids, the preparticipation examination may be the only time that they’re seeing a doctor all year, and many doctors can combine them with a routine well child visit” says LaBotz. Insurance coverage can vary, but well child visits are often covered, while dedicated sports physicals often are not, so combining them typically works well.
Sports physicals should ideally be performed at least six weeks before the start of the sports season to allow for enough time to address any issues that may arise. It can help to keep this timing in mind when scheduling your child’s routine check-ups with their primary care provider.