A majority of children in the United States today currently play sports. 76% of boys in middle school or high school play sports, while 70% of girls of the same age are active in sports. In terms of adults, around 25% say they currently play sports.
Whether you or your child is a focused athlete or someone who plays simply for the fun of it, there are many benefits to undertaking an annual sports physical exam. In the state of Georgia, all students are required to have a standard sports physical exam before participating in high school athletics.
In this blog post, we will highlight the main benefits of an annual sports physical exam. These include getting a general assessment of overall health, determining any predispositions to injuries, providing guidance on how to stay healthy in the long run, and assessing balance, endurance, and speed. Let’s get started.
Assessment of Overall Health
A sports physical is considered to be an evaluation of a person’s overall physical health. It is a way to determine if it is safe for a person to participate in a particular sport.
A sports physical exam first looks at a person’s medical history. This includes any medical problems that run in the family, medical problems such as:
- Any allergies
- Any previous hospitalizations and surgeries
It also looks at past injuries (ranging from sprains and broken bones to concussions), any medicine the person is currently taking, and whether they have ever had any issues related to feeling dizzy or experiencing chest pain while playing sports.
Questions about a person’s use of alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, and performance-enhancing supplements may also be included in the exam.
In terms of a physical exam, this generally includes the following steps:
- Checking blood pressure and pulse
- Recording weight and height
- Checking heart and lungs
- Testing eyesight
- Examining bones, joints, and muscles
A sports physical exam is also an opportunity for the person to ask any questions they may have about their sporting performance, health, and diet.
Determining Predispositions to Injuries
As noted above, a sports physical looks at a person’s medical and family history, which may help to determine if they have a predisposition to certain injuries and the potential risk of participating in specific sports.
Depending on the particular sports that a person plays, the sports physical exam provide may pay more attention to specific areas of the body. For example, a baseball play is more likely to have issues with their shoulder or arms, while a runner is more likely to have issues with their feet, ankles, and legs. Closer attention may be paid to these areas during an annual sports physical.
Providing Guidance on Longevity
The average career in the NFL is only around 3.3 years, highlighting the physical demands of certain sports and the risk of injury that they carry. Of course, some sports are less demanding than others, which allows people to perform at a higher level for longer (i.e. golf, where a person’s professional career spans decades).
During an annual sports physical exam, the examining clinician is able to recommend exercises, stretches, or dietary changes and make suggestions to reduce the risk of specific injuries and maximize performance. Certain lifestyle changes may help to increase a person’s longevity within their chosen sport and allow them to enjoy participating for longer.
With certain sports, such as football, boxing, and mixed martial arts, regular sports physicals are important to assess an athlete for potential injuries to the head or brain.
Assess Balance, Endurance, and Speed
An annual sports physical exam includes a comprehensive evaluation of their physical strength, including areas such as:
The examining clinician can then make recommendations based on the person’s sporting goals in order to improve areas of weakness. This may include specific training regimens and exercises to complete before and after performance. The more an athlete understands their sporting ability, including strengths and weaknesses, the more they are able to focus their training on ways to improve.
Initiating Next Steps
For most athletes, an annual sports physical is a routine exam where everything checks out okay. For some people, however, a follow-up may be recommended or required.
This may include a follow-up exam, further tests, specific treatment (such as physical therapy), or the prescription of medication. This is done to allow the athlete to play their sport safely.
Remember, the goal of a sports physical is to ensure that a person is safe while playing sports. It’s not to stop someone from playing. In some cases, a person may be deemed unable to play a particular sport, but that doesn’t automatically rule them out of playing all sports. For example, a person with a track record of concussions may not be able to continue playing football, but sports such as tennis or golf are examples of excellent alternatives.
The Importance of an Annual Sports Physical Exam
If you participate in sports, it is highly recommended that you schedule an annual sports physical exam. That way, you will be able to know with confidence that you are fit and healthy to play your chosen sports.
As noted in the introduction, all students in Georgia are required to have a standard sports physical exam before participating in high school athletics. Here at MedNow Urgent Care, we provide these physicals for an affordable fee and without an appointment.
Click here to learn about our sports physicals or call us at (706) 922-3NOW. We look forward to speaking with you.