What happens at a child’s sports physical?

A sports physical, or preparticipation physical examination, will consist of gathering important background information and a physical examination of your child.

At a sports physical, a provider will examine your child to make sure they are in adequate condition to participate safely in sports. Your provider will ask for your child’s medical history and do a physical examination.

Sports physicals typically are required before a child can participate in school sports. (Kentucky requires a preventive health exam upon entering public school and within a year of starting sixth grade, regardless of sports participation.)

A sports physical, or preparticipation physical examination, will consist of gathering important background information and a physical examination of your child.

Your provider will ask about serious illnesses that run in your family, conditions such as asthma and cardiac conditions, previous injuries or hospitalizations. Knowledge of these health issues can help them better assess your child.

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During the physical examination, your provider will listen to your child’s lungs and heart, check their strength and flexibility, take their height and weight, feel their stomach, check their blood pressure and look in their ears, nose and throat.

A sports physical is not the same as an annual checkup, or well-child check. Annual checkups with your child’s primary care provider are important to follow your child’s development, keep vaccinations up to date, and encourage healthy habits. Annual checkups are more comprehensive than sports physicals, and do not necessarily fulfill the same requirements that sports teams require for participation.

Sports physicals and annual check-ups can be done at the same time. Ask your provider at your child’s next annual exam.

Your school may provide a time for your child to receive a sports physical, but keep in mind these exams may be less personal, as they are likely not with your child’s usual provider.

Schedule your child’s sports physical six weeks before school starts to ensure they can participate in sports. If your provider raises a concern about your child’s ability to participate, this provides time to address the issue.


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