What You Need to Know About School and Sports Physicals

Planning for your child’s return to school starts with scheduling their school physicals, depending on their age or grade level. It also could mean your child needs a sports physical if they participate in their school’s sports program.

If your child is of an age or grade where a school physical is required and they are active in sports, you can tend to both with just one appointment.

Dr. Lacey Moy, a family medicine provider at OSF HealthCare Medical Group – Reynolds Street in Pontiac, Illinois, explains the difference in the physicals and what parents should take away from those appointments.

Q. What takes place during a school physical?

A. Parents fill out history forms and we go over immunization records to determine if any are needed. Then we ask some questions about eating habits, sleeping habits and physical activity, go over concerns and check the child’s height and weight. Then we do a physical exam and document everything for the physical forms.

Q. Why are school physicals important?

A. They are important to determine if the child has any diseases that must be monitored while at school (e.g. asthma, peanut allergy), if they need any immunizations to prevent the spread of disease and to pick up on any general health concerns that might not have prompted the parents to bring the child in, such as obesity or elevated blood pressure.

Q. What takes place during a sports physical?

A. Again there are history forms to be filled out and we ask some questions about certain symptoms during physical activity and family history. We also do a physical exam which focuses more on the heart and lungs. We then document the physical on state-issued forms.

Q. Why are sports physicals important?

A. These exams are to screen for disorders that could be dangerous for a child to participate in sports. Most important are potential heart disorders, but also asthma and other breathing conditions that could require a child to take precautions while playing sports rather than prohibit them. It also gives the opportunity for discussion about concussions, how to prevent them and whether it is safe to play with the number of previous concussions.

Q. What should parents understand about the differences between the two?

A. The focus of the school physical is mostly on vaccinations and general health concerns while the sports physical is more focused on a few specific conditions which make it dangerous to participate in sports.

Q. What should parents be prepared to address with the provider during a school physical?

A. Parents should be prepared to discuss their child’s immunization history – which we usually have if they are an established patient but it helps to bring if they are a new patient – diet and activity history, dental and eye history and any health concerns

Q. What are the top takeaways for parents following their child’s school physical?

A. Parents will get preventive advice and educated about their child’s growth parameters and immunizations they received or might want to consider.

Q. What should parents be prepared to address with the provider during a sports physical?

A. Your provider will ask about your family history of heart disease, any incidents of injury while playing sports such as concussions, or any incidents of passing out, chest pain or shortness of breath.

Q. What are the top takeaways for parents following their child’s sports physical?

A. The goal is for parents to know whether their child has any risk factors they should be aware of while playing sports. We often also take this opportunity to go over preventive advice as well and offer any immunizations that are due.

***Courtesy of OSF HealthCare***

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