Physical Exams and Teen Sports
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 should be asked to fill out a health history form as well as a teen questionnaire that investigates daily habits and lifestyle choices ( it asks about drug and alcohol use, among other topics).
- Shortness of breath or chest pain during exercise
- Dizziness or fainting spells
- High blood pressure
- Excess fatigue
- Frequent headaches
- Eating disorders
- Vision problems (wearing glasses or contact lenses)
- Past surgeries or injuries (broken bones, fractures, dislocations, or concussions)
- Heart problems such as a murmur or abnormal heart rhythm
- Bone, joint, or spine injuries
- Skin problems
- Severe allergies such as to food, pollen, or stinging insects
- Liver or kidney problems
- Use of certain medications including prescription, over-the-counter, illicit, and herbal medicines
- A family history of heart problems or sudden death before age 50
The medical history will be followed by a physical exam, in which the health care provider will:
- Measure height and weight
- Take pulse rate and blood pressure
- Check the heart and lungs
- Check neurological function such as reflexes, coordination, and strength
- Test your child’s vision and hearing
- Check the ears, nose, and throat
- Look at joint flexibility, mobility, spinal alignment, and posture
- Screen cholesterol, obtain a hemoglobin count, and perform a urinalysis
- Genital exam (to screen for hernias in males)
- Immunizations if needed
Girls may also be asked about their period, and whether it's regular. Additional testing such as blood tests, X-rays, or electrocardiogram may be ordered during the sports physical.