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Why are sports physical required?

Participating in an organized sport is a great way to stay active. However, many schools and sports leagues require a sports physical. Why does participating in a sport mandate a physical, and what do you (or your child) need to know before visiting the doctor?  

 “Physicals are beneficial because they often identify ailments or medical conditions early on. In addition, they can identify some conditions which may make participation in athletic activity dangerous,” said Dr. Jessica Butts, a family and sports medicine physician with Middle Tennessee Medical Group. “Catching these conditions early may make them easier to treat, which can mean a better experience for the patient.” 

Dr. Butts recommends that athletes receive a physical once a year, or before every sports season in which he or she participates. A sports physical consists of a physical exam and a medical history. 

During the physical exam, the physician will usually: 

  • Check vitals (height, weight and blood pressure);
  • Listen to the heart and lungs;
  • Feel the abdomen;
  • Look in the ears, nose, and throat;
  • Conduct an eye exam; and
  • Conduct a basic musculoskeletal exam on all patients and may conduct a focused exam if there is a particular injury or area of concern. 

For the medical history, the physician will: 

  • Inquire about past  illnesses and injuries;
  • Note any medical problems that run in the family;
  • Ask about any medicines taken on a daily basis; and
  • Screen for cardiac risk factors, such as whether or not you (or your child) have ever passed out, felt dizzy, or felt pain in your chest while running or playing. 

Compiling an accurate medical history is an important portion of the process because it allows the doctor to identify potential hereditary conditions, record illness or injuries that may have gone unnoticed, and identify risk factors associated with a particular sport. 

For more information about Saint Thomas Health, please visit Don’t have a primary care doctor? Call 1-800-Doctors for a free physician referral. 

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