Preparing for an Effective Sports Physical
Sports physical – Schedule a well-child visit at least six weeks before the season! In addition to having time to address any identified concerns, planning ahead will make your young athlete’s appointment more enjoyable. Here are some thoughts to help you prepare for an effective pre-participation evaluation (PPE).
Schedule an appointment with your primary care provider. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends seeing your child’s primary care physician prior to the season starting. We agree with the AAP, as the pediatrician likely knows the most about your child from a medical standpoint. He or she can incorporate years of family and medical history knowledge into your child’s evaluation.
Provide thorough family history, particularly in regards to cardiac health. In addition to screening for general health and signs of musculoskeletal injuries, a main focus of the PPE is to identify young athletes at risk for sudden cardiac death. The family and medical history is critical to successful screening. While most cases do not require further testing, your primary care doctor is best qualified to determine whether more tests are needed based off of any signs and symptoms your child may exhibit. Complete the organization’s form or this form from the AAP prior to your visit to save time.
Be prepared to thoughtfully answer questions during the evaluation. Here are some topics to discuss with your athlete before you arrive.
Review new or nagging complaints of muscle, joint or bone pain. Continuing to play in spite of the body’s signal of an injury puts the athlete at risk of a more severe injury or new injury. Also, be sure to consider any injury or illness that caused the athlete to miss practice or playing time, or needed a brace, taping, evaluation by a medical provider, X rays or rehabilitation to ensure these have been fully addressed.
Review your young athlete’s eating habits. The primary care provider can discuss specific needs for your young athlete; for example, your athlete’s desire to gain or lose weight. Proper nutrition and adequate caloric intake are essential for growth, bone health, muscle recovery, strength building and athletic performance.
Ask your child if he or she has taken, or considered taking, supplements. The pediatrician can review the risks and benefits of certain supplements and discuss what is appropriate for your child. Many supplements sold in stores have been found to contain banned or unsafe ingredients for children and teens. Children should get all they need out of a well-rounded diet. Supplementing should be managed by a licensed medical professional with training in sports nutrition.
Discuss menstrual cycle frequency with female athletes. While it may seem difficult to address, many competitive female athletes unintentionally place high stress on their bodies. Menstrual cycle is one function affected by an imbalance in energy consumed versus energy used in training. An absent or infrequent cycle signals other systems may need to be checked.
Encourage your pediatrician and child to address tough topics. The PPE visit may be your child’s only annual physical exam. Screening for depression or other mental illness, overuse injuries due to over-commitment to one sport and risky behaviors that lead to injury or illness will help keep your young athlete healthy and active.
Shane M. Miller, M.D.is board certified in pediatrics and sports medicine. He is a sports medicine physician at the Center for Excellence in Sports Medicine at Scottish Rite for Children. Dr. Miller is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness. He also holds an appointment as Associate Professor of Orthopedics and Pediatrics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. He sees patients for sports injuries including bone and joint, muscle and ligament injuries as well as sports concussions at our North Campus, now in Plano.
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