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Student Athlete Sports Physical Exam

Why do student athletes need a sports physical exam before playing sports?

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Updated March 05, 2011

Nearly all schools and youth sports leagues require that the players have a complete a sports physical. This preparticipation physical exam is an important part of safe sports participation. The exam can help screen athletes for potential illness or conditions that may limit or restrict their sports activity. It helps make sure that kids who play sports are physically capable of meeting the demands of a sport and don't have any conditions that may be aggravated by intense exercise.

The goal of the sports physical is to help keep sports safe and accessible to every student who wants to play.

The sports physical rarely uncovers health problems in kids, but performing a routine history and physical exam is the best way to ensure the safety of a child who plays sports and help avoid potential risks of injury or illness.

What Is Checked During a Sports Physical?

The most common sports physical include a health history questionnaire that asks about the child's medical history of injury, illness or conditions, such as asthma, and ensure that they are being properly managed.

The health history also asks about the following:

  • Emergency contact information
  • Family history of illness
  • Personal history of illness or injury
  • Diagnosed medical conditions
  • History of heart problems
  • Medications
  • Allergies
  • History of head injury
  • Hospitalizations
  • Immunizations
  • For female athletes the physical inquires about menstrual cycle irregularities

The Physical Exam


The physical exam is designed to look for anything unusual including:
  • Heart rhythm and rate (heart murmur)
  • Joint pain or tenderness
  • Curvature of the spine
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Wheezing
  • Muscle imbalance
  • Vision Loss
  • Hearing Problems
  • Problems with reflexes

In some cases, if there is a health concern, a student may undergo the following procedures:

  • Blood Tests
  • Urinalysis
  • EKG or Echocardiogram
  • X-ray, MRI, CT scan or Bone Scan
  • Muscle Strength Testing

Sports Physicals are usually required about a month prior to start of practice in order to allow time for addressing any medical conditions that are uncovered so a child can still participate in the sports even if they need to modify their training routine.

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