Why your child should get a physical before engaging in sports
You don’t usually hear much about sports physicals until right before school starts. But youth sports are played year-round, and if your child has not yet had a sports physical, now is a good time to schedule one. Chris Mathis, MD, a family medicine practitioner, says sports physicals are more than just a routine requirement. “They allow physicians to detect minor to serious underlying health issues in children and adolescents,” he says. “Most schools require a sports physical, but not every year. Your child should be evaluated yearly.”
Not just a check-up
Dr. Mathis says he checks for issues such as heart murmurs and possible exercise-induced asthma. “You hear stories of student athletes who suffer sudden cardiac death on the field. Most of these kids had a murmur that went undetected,” he says. “And some kids who have issues with breathing learn they have exercise-induced asthma. Before kids go off and compete, they need to be healthy and not have a condition that could be potentially very serious.”
Concussions are another health crisis gaining a lot of attention, states Dr. Mathis. “Many athletes who play contact sports are now given ImPACT tests prior to participating in such sports as football, soccer, hockey, lacrosse and basketball,” he says. “Athletes don’t always want to let their coaches know if they aren’t feeling well after colliding with another player because they would not be allowed to play. But there is now more oversight on concussions than in the past.” He explains that athletes suspected of having a possible concussion are given the ImPACT test again, and those results are compared with their initial test. Depending on the results, the player may not be allowed to play until cleared by a doctor.
Dr. Mathis adds that another benefit of the sports physical is sharing educational information with the students. “One of the leading causes of injuries with this age group is accidents, so we take the opportunity to educate them on safety, awareness and age-appropriate preventive things they can do,” says Dr. Mathis. “Ultimately, we want to make sure the students are healthy so they can safely participate in their favorite sports.”
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