Sports physicals, or pre-participation evaluations, are required by many schools before young athletes beginning to participate in sports. These exams are focused on evaluating a child’s fitness to compete. They also include screening for illnesses and injuries that may not have been identified or addressed in the past, as well as an in-depth discussion of your child’s mental and physical health history to ensure they are able to participate in their chosen sport.

Schools require sports physicals to ensure that each child has the physical and mental fitness to safely participate in the child’s chosen sport. The requirements a child must meet to play high-intensity sports, such as basketball and ice hockey, are different than the fitness level required for golfing or bowling. Additionally, there are several conditions that the sports physical will screen for that can be life-threatening if the student plays a sport that triggers it.

Some of the more serious diseases or conditions that could be identified are:

  • Marfan syndrome, a disease that affects connective tissue, which can lead to problems of the valves in the heart
  • Heart arrhythmias, which can limit the student’s ability to participate in sports that increase heart rates, like track and field
  • Risk of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is the leading cause of sudden death of young athletes
  • Hypertension, and other blood pressure abnormalities, which can be particularly dangerous for activities that include weight-lifting
  • Eating disorders, especially anorexia nervosa, which is more common among female athletes
  • Sickle cell disease, which limits an athlete’s ability to play contact sports and high-exertion sports

If a concern is identified during the pre-participation evaluation, the pediatrician will recommend further testing, treatment, or follow-up to address any problems. A child who is found to be medically ineligible for any sports may have a serious underlying condition. While it can be upsetting for a student to be diagnosed with a problem that makes them ineligible for their favorite sport, a pediatrician will make this determination with their safety and health as a top priority. Sometimes, an injury or illness is found that can be addressed before the start of the season, so the student won’t have to sit out.

Because of the nature of some of the more serious disease conditions listed, schools require sports physicals so that every student that participates in sports can do so as safely as possible. If your child is getting ready to participate in a sport for this upcoming school year, now is the time to schedule an appointment.  Appointments fill up fast!