What Do They Do at Physicals for Sports?

At physicals for sports, doctors and other medical professionals will assess your child’s physical fitness and health. This usually includes a series of tests, such as measuring height and weight, checking vision and hearing, and testing for flexibility and range of motion.

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Pre-participation Physicals

You’ve been playing the sport for years and you know the ins and outs. You’ve worked hard to get to where you are now, but there’s one more thing standing in your way – the pre-participation physical. This is a physical exam required by most schools and sports leagues before you can start playing.

What is a pre-participation physical?

A pre-participation physical is an examination given to athletes before they begin practicing or competing in their sport. The physical is often given during the athlete’s teenage years, although some organizations require them for younger athletes as well.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommend that all athletes have a pre-participation physical prior to playing their sport. These organizations feel that the physical can help identify any potential medical problems that could put the athlete at risk for injury or illness during their season.

The pre-participation physical generally includes a review of the athlete’s medical history, a physical examination, and some basic tests, such as a blood pressure check and urine test. The physician may also order some additional tests, depending on the athlete’s age and health history.

When should you get a pre-participation physical?

Periodic exams for athletes are important because they not only detect existing medical problems, but can also identify risk factors that may predispose the athlete to problems in the future. For these reasons, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), along with numerous other organizations, recommends that every athlete have a pre-participation physical prior to beginning or resuming participation in any sport.

There is no “magic” time of year to have a pre-participation physical. However, many experts recommend having the exam early enough so that any problems that are detected can be resolved before the start of the sports season. This allows the athlete to begin training and competing with peace of mind, knowing that he or she has been cleared for participation by a medical professional.

What will the doctor do during a pre-participation physical?

A pre-participation physical is also called a sports physical. It’s a medical exam that young athletes have before they start playing sports. The doctor checks to see if it’s safe for the child to play the sport and how likely the child is to get injured.

During the physical, the doctor will:
-check the child’s weight and height
-check the child’s blood pressure, pulse, and heart rate
-check the child’s ears, nose, throat, and mouth
-check the child’s vision
-check the child’s joints and muscles
-check the child’s chest and lungs

The Physical Exam

If you are an athlete, you are probably familiar with the physical exam. Every year, athletes have to go through a physical in order to participate in their sport. But what exactly is a physical exam? And what do they do at physicals for sports? Let’s take a closer look.

General Appearance and Behavior

A physical exam for sports is conducted to determine if an athlete is physically fit to participate in their chosen sport. The exam includes a general examination of the athlete’s appearance and behavior, as well as a specific assessment of their musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, pulmonary, and neurologic systems.

Cardiovascular Examination

The cardiovascular examination assesses the heart and blood vessels. The doctor will ask about your family history of heart disease and any personal risk factors you may have, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes. They will also check your pulse and blood pressure.

Next, the doctor will listen to your heart with a stethoscope. They will check for abnormal rhythms and listen for any murmurs or other abnormal sounds. Finally, they will feel for any enlarged veins in your neck or abnormal pulses in your limbs.

Respiratory Examination

During the respiratory examination, your practitioner will check your lungs for any abnormal sounds. This is done with a stethoscope. You may be asked to take a deep breath in and then to breathe out quickly. The doctor will listen for wheezing or other abnormalities. You may also be asked to cough deeply.

Abdominal Examination

The abdominal examination is performed to assess for any abnormalities in the abdomen. The examiner will start by inspecting the abdomen for any visible abnormalities, such as masses, scars, or bulges. Next, the examiner will palpate (feel) the abdomen to assess for any tenderness, pain, or masses. The examiner will also check for any involuntary guarding or spasm of the abdominal muscles, which may indicate inflammation or peritoneal irritation. Finally, the examiner will percuss (tap) the abdomen to assess for any abnormalities in sound.

Neurological Examination

The neurological examination will assess the following:
-Mental status
-Cranial nerves
-Motor strength
-Sensory function

The mental status portion will assess the athlete’s short-term memory, orientation, and ability to concentrate. The cranial nerves will be evaluated for function of each of the twelve cranial nerves. Motor strength will be evaluated by having the athlete push or pull against resistance while the examiner measures the force produced. Reflexes will be measured by tapping on tendons and observing the muscle response. Sensory function will be assessed by testing for sharp/dull, hot/cold, and light touch sensation.

Orthopedic Examination

The orthopedic examination for sports is focused on the bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the body. The doctor will look for signs of injury or abnormalities. They will also ask about your symptoms and how they have affected your ability to participate in sports.

The doctor may order x-rays or other imaging tests if they suspect a problem with your bones or joints. They may also order blood tests or other laboratory tests to rule out other conditions that could be causing your symptoms.

After the examination, the doctor will give you their findings and recommendations. If you have an injury, they will develop a treatment plan to help you heal and return to your sport. If you do not have an injury, they will provide guidance on how to prevent injuries in the future.

Additional Testing

Depending on the sport, some coaches require their athletes to get a physical prior to the start of the season. This is to ensure that the athlete is physically capable of competing and to rule out any health concerns that could potentially jeopardize their safety. In addition to the standard health screening, there are additional tests that are sometimes conducted depending on the sport. Here are some of the most common tests that are done.

Electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG)

An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) is a test that checks for problems with the electrical activity of your heart. An EKG translates the heart’s electrical activity into lines on paper. The spikes and dips in the line represent each heartbeat. They show how fast the heart is beating and whether its rhythm is steady or erratic.

During an EKG, sensors called electrodes are placed on your chest, arms and legs. The electrodes are attached to an electrocardiograph machine, which displays your heart’s electrical activity on a monitor or computer screen.

An EKG is generally a safe procedure. However, in rare cases, it can cause skin irritation where the electrodes are placed.

Exercise Stress Test

An exercise stress test, also called a treadmill test or exercise test, helps a doctor find out how well your heart handles work. As your body works harder during the test, it requires more oxygen, so the heart must pump more blood. The test can show if the blood supply is adequate or if there are blockages in the coronary arteries.

The test is done on a treadmill or bike with monitoring devices attached to your chest and sometimes your fingers. You’ll start out walking or pedaling slowly. The speed and incline of the treadmill or bike will be increased every 3 minutes until you reach your maximum heart rate, which is usually between 185 beats per minute (bpm) for men and 175 bpm for women.

Imaging Studies

Imaging studies may be used to diagnose or rule out other conditions that could be causing your symptoms. X-rays, MRI, or CT scans may be ordered. If your doctor suspects a stress fracture, you may have a bone scan.

Additional Considerations

There are a few other things that may be considered during a sports physical. Depending on the sport, some athletes may need special testing or considerations. For example, wrestlers may need to be weighed to ensure they are in the right weight class. Swimmers might need to do a swim test to prove they can swim the length of the pool.

Here are some additional considerations that might be taken into account during a sports physical:
-Athletes with medical conditions: Some athletes have medical conditions that need to be taken into consideration when they are playing sports. For example, an athlete with diabetes might need to have their blood sugar monitored more closely.
-Athletes with injuries: If an athlete has an injury, the doctor will want to make sure it has healed properly before they return to play. They may also recommend special exercises or treatments to help prevent further injury.
-Special testing: Depending on the sport, some athletes may need special testing. For example, wrestlers might need to be weighed to ensure they are in the right weight class. Swimmers might need to do a swim test to prove they can swim the length of the pool.

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