With school sports practices beginning mid-August, it’s time for student athletes to get their annual sports physicals.
This year the new Preparticipation Physical Evaluation (PPE) has expanded in scope to include youth who engage in physical activities outside of traditional sports. Health care providers now view the skateboarder, BMX racer or snowboarder the same as peers who participate in traditional organized sports such as soccer or football.
The guidelines also urge athletes from middle school through college to get their sports physical during a well-child exam to ensure that they receive comprehensive care by their primary health care provider.
Many school districts require that student-athletes have a physical after June 1 to ensure that they are up to date for the approaching school year. If the timing does not coincide with the well-child exam, a sports physical is required. “A sports physical is a quick check to ensure that nothing has changed from your full physical and provide participation clearance for the school year,” says Susan Emerson, CPNP of Annapolis Pediatrics. “It is especially important to identify any possible life-threatening medical conditions such as heart conditions. Sports physicals are helpful to identify conditions that may limit participation such as concussions, lung problems like asthma, or musculoskeletal injuries.”
Authors of the report found that athletes who receive only a sports physical at a retail-based clinic or school screening may not receive as thorough an exam because their comprehensive health history is not readily available. If an issue is detected, patients are referred back to their primary care physician for follow-up. Emerson concurs with the PPE recommendations. “Going to the pediatrician for a sports physical is important because they have access to your child’s entire medical record,” says Emerson. “This includes prior visits to specialists such as cardiology or orthopedics as well as their growth chart and immunization records. This allows for much better care than seeing a provider who does not know your child’s medical history.”
The 2019 PPE guidelines also give special attention to athletes’ mental health; new guidance on the care of transgender athletes; suggestions for female athletes with regard to energy, menstrual health and bone density; new musculoskeletal tests for risk of patellofemoral and anterior cruciate ligament injuries; and highlight the importance of exercise for children with special needs.
Looking for a new pediatrician? Check our 2019 Favorite Docs to find a new provider who’s been recommended by our readers.