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Physical Exams and Teen Sports

Playing on a community or school sports team is a great way for teens to stay in shape and learn teamwork. That's probably why more than 38 million American children and teenagers play at least one sport. 

No matter which sport your teen plays -- whether it's soccer, football, baseball, track, or martial arts -- there's always a risk of getting hurt. The casualties of teen sports can range from minor sprained ankles and repetitive strains, to more serious conditions like heat stroke or exercise-induced asthma. Some kids have serious allergic reactions to bees and other stinging insects found around playing fields. 

To avoid getting hurt or sick on the field, court, and track, teens need to be prepared. That preparation starts with seeing a health care provider for a sports physical to make sure their bodies are ready for the season ahead. 

Some states won't let young athletes start a season or play a new sport without first having a sports physical. Even if your state doesn't require a sports physical, it's a good idea for every teen who plays a sport to get one to make sure they're in top shape and healthy enough to safely participate.

What Is a Sports Physical?

A sports physical -- also known as a pre-participation physical examination -- is a check-up to assess a teen's health and fitness as it relates to a sport. It is not the same as a regular physical. During the sports physical, the health care provider looks for any diseases or injuries that could make it unsafe to participate in sports.

Where Is a Sports Physical Done?

The teen's pediatrician can perform the sports physical. Physician's assistants and nurse practitioners also can do a sports physical and sign the required forms. 

Many schools also offer sports physicals. They'll usually set up stations around the gym, where health care providers will perform the different medical tests. 

Your child also can get his sports physical at some immediate care clinics, as well as the clinics inside some drug store chains. You don't need an appointment for these sports physicals, which usually consist of a health history and basic exam. However, sports physicals should not take the place of an annual physical exam by your teen's pediatrician.

 

When Is a Sports Physical Done?

Ideally you should try to have the exam done about six to eight weeks before sports season starts. That way, if the health care provider wants to treat a condition, refer you to a specialist, or do a follow-up exam, there will be enough time before the sport begins to be cleared to play.

What to Expect During a Sports Physical

Your teen's sports physical should start with a thorough medical history. The health care provider will ask about any history of illness, hospitalizations, or injuries that might prevent your teen from playing, or that might limit the amount of activity your teen can handle. Your teen may be asked to fill out a health history form.

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