MARTIN – Students will soon be heading back to class, and in many cases, back to the field or court. If your children are involved in organized athletics, a sports physical is likely required to ensure that they’re safely able to participate in physically demanding activities. More than 38 million teenagers and children in the United States play at least one sport. That’s why Saint Joseph Martin, part of KentuckyOne Health, wants to help make your young athlete’s back to school experience a success, by encouraging a sports physical this year.
A sports physical, also called a pre-participation exam (PPE), is similar to the doctor’s exam that most children experience before heading back to class, but it also addresses injuries, training, nutrition and exercise programs.
“In order for young athletes to stay safe, parents should help them take the proper precautions by getting their physical before they start the season,” said Angela O’Quinn, DO, Saint Joseph Martin. “Physicals can help identify any high-risk disorder or condition that might affect an athlete’s ability to participate in their sport. We also look for any existing injuries they might have, so we can take action to avoid future problems or look for rehabilitation solutions.”
Students involved in athletics are encouraged to receive a sports physical at least six weeks prior to the start of the season. This allows the physician time to address past or lingering injuries before the season starts.
Regular physical exams for students usually include evaluations and measurements of blood pressure, height and weight, neck and chest, vision, heart and abdomen, lymph nodes, joints and spine, skin and muscles, and the ears, nose and throat. Medical history, including past and current medications, as well as immunization history, is also reviewed.
While a sports physical will include some aspects of a regular exam, it is not the same since it focuses on fitness as it relates to a sport. During a physical exam, the physician is specifically looking for diseases and injuries that would make it unsafe to participate in sports. The physician will also review the athlete’s pulse and blood pressure, heart and lungs, neurological functions such as reflexes, vision and hearing, spinal alignment and joint flexibility, cholesterol, and a genital exam to screen for hernias in males. Additional tests may also be required, depending on the athlete’s family medical history.
Each year, more than 2.6 million children and teens are treated in emergency departments in the United States for sports and recreation-related injuries. The most common injury an athlete experiences is an ankle sprain, which occurs when ligaments in the ankle are stretched or torn. Heat-related illnesses, such as dehydration and heat stroke, can also be dangerous for young athletes. Children perspire less than adults and require a higher core body temperature to trigger sweating.
KentuckyOne Health Sports Medicine, part of KentuckyOne Health, offers a comprehensive range of services for athletes including education, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and wellness from a specially trained and certified staff, ensuring the highest quality of care possible.
The group offers programs focused at preventing injuries before they happen. This includes a knee injury prevention program, shoulder and elbow injury prevention program, dry needling to improve pain control and reduce muscle tension, and concussion management. It also includes neuropsychology sports screenings for athletes who have experienced a traumatic brain injury.
“In order to stay safe playing sports, students should be prepared,” said Paul McKee, MD, KentuckyOne Health/University of Louisville Sports Medicine. “Before they start the season, they should see their health provider for a sports physical, and make sure there are no injuries or conditions that could be dangerous for them during physical activity.”