In a thorough sports physical, these points should be discussed to assure healthy activity, Kugler says:
- Family history -- Tell the doctor if there is a family history of sudden death or heart problems, whether in someone under age 40 or not. It might point to a heart abnormality or cholesterol and blood pressure problems.
- Exercise history -- Discuss the athlete's history related to exercise -- if he or she has ever had chest pain, become lightheaded, or lost consciousness.
- Asthma and other forms of respiratory disease -- There are good medications that make it possible to control asthma symptoms. Discuss this with the doctor.
- Blood pressure, vital signs, and heart exam -- By listening to the athlete's heart, the doctor may detect heart murmurs. "[Heart murmurs] also put kids at risk for sudden death," says Kugler.
- Bones and joints -- Bone deformities and decreased range of motion in neck or back could cause overuse injuries.
- Immunizations -- Shots should be kept up to date.
Kugler also explains the risks that various sports carry.
Football and other contact sports carry high risk for bone and joint injuries, says Kugler. Depending on the athlete's stage of development, they may need to be more careful, or perhaps wait a year to play, he tells WebMD.
He says that in certain developmental stages, kids can be more at risk for injury than others. For example, in junior high school, some kids are growing a lot faster than others, yet they are playing on the same team.
Girls have the same sorts of injury risks as boys, he tells WebMD. "In many ways, people underestimate the amount of injury risk in some sports like soccer, which so many girls play. There are a fair number of injuries in that sport. It's really much more of a contact sport than is generally given in the media."
Some girls get into excessive exercise -- especially distance runners -- which puts them at risk for premature thinning of bones as well as problems with their periods, Kugler says. "Those things can be managed as long as they talk to their doctor about it." Doctors and parents should also keep alert to excessive weight loss and preoccupation with dieting, signs of anorexia nervosa.