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The What, Why and Where of Sports Physicals

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Child playing soccer

Start Off On the Right Foot…
Why Sports Physicals Are Often Required

We’re in the midst of sports physical season here at BestMed Urgent Care. These specialized physicals are a basic check-up that’s often required by athletic programs before they’ll allow kids to participate in sports. (The other term that’s used for a sports physical is a pre-participation physical exam (PPE).)

But why are sports physicals required? For people who don’t have access to a walk-in clinic, which makes it easy to get this check-up covered, it can seem like just one more hoop to jump through. But we’re big fans of the sports physical: it’s a non-invasive, low-stress and quick way to check in on your child’s health as it relates to activity. BestMed Urgent Care has clinics across Colorado, Wyoming, Washington and Oregon, from Bend to Gillette. They all offer sports physicals. Find the closest location to you here.

What a sports physical checks for listing as described in body text

What issues could a sports physical find?

Although they’re not exhaustive (or exhausting!), sports physicals can identify concerns or issues that should be considered when your child is playing a sport. A professional medical opinion can be helpful so that you know to modify the sport or the drills your child participates in, or to make other accommodations. Issues that could come up include:

  • Allergies or asthma.
  • Hernias or unresolved injuries.
  • Areas of focus for stretching.
  • Undiagnosed heart murmurs or other irregularities.

On the slight chance that a physical reveals an area of concern, you’ll be directed to the appropriate specialist for follow-up (you will probably be provided with a referral for insurance reasons) and a more detailed examination. (In that case, we ask that you check your insurance before proceeding. Helping to address and manage chronic or acute conditions is not included in the cost of a sports physical and we don’t want to surprise you with an additional bill.)

Is it common to find issues during a sports physical?

Most of the time, sports physicals are straightforward, in-and-out visits, and you exit with peace of mind and the documentation your child needs to play. Once complete, you’re typically good to go for another year.

How to prepare for a sports physical:

Our goal is for the sports physical to be a low-stress visit! Just walk in to any BestMed Urgent Care clinic. You’ll fill out the usual intake paperwork about health history and medications. If possible, bring the form your athletic association or school is requiring. If you don’t have a printer at home, no problem – we can print it for you!

You can make a sports physical easier on your child by discussing what to expect ahead of time. Let them know the provider will do the following while talking with you and your child during the exam, so nothing is a surprise.

  • Listen to the heart.
  • Listen to the lungs and check oxygen saturation.
  • Check blood pressure.
  • Document weight and height.
  • Check vision.
  • Assess injury and illness risk factors.
  • Test reflexes.
  • Check posture, flexibility and joints.

Does a sports physical satisfy other requirements?

Because a sports physical is narrow in focus – emphasizing physical or endurance-related items, it does not stand in for other school or daycare check-up requirements. We can provide those types of exams, but they are more exhaustive than a sports physical. Like all our services, just walk in with the documents you need us to complete.

Other tips for playing safely:

Most of the injuries we see at urgent care can happen at practice as easily as they can during a game. That means that every practice offers opportunities for injury prevention. Our blog “Coming Out of Hibernation Safely” offers tips to prevent injuries and what to do if your child is injured.

These stay-safe tips always apply:

  • Wear sunscreen.
  • Warm up slowly.
  • Drink more water.
  • Wear the protective gear recommended for the sport (shin guards, mouth guards, helmets, etc.).

Pay attention to signals from the body related to over-use, take it easy and check in at urgent care if pain persists. 

Now play on!

We’re emphatic about the benefits of sports: Not only do kids stay active and strong, but it’s a great way to learn how to be a good sport and work with others. Lessons learned will last a lifelong. From all of us at BestMed Urgent Care, have a great season!

Reviewed by: Katie Sanne, FNP-C

If you are in a situation that might be life-threatening, go straight to the emergency room or call 911. Situations like this include shortness of breath or breathing problems; seizures or ‘blackouts’; sudden vision problems; confusion or dizziness; heavy bleeding; possible breaks that appear to be deformed or blue, or that include bleeding; serious burns; the inability to speak or move; head and neck injuries.

Kids playing basketball with text: Due for a sports physical? No sweat. Walk right in.

Due for a sports physical? No sweat! Walk in for your sports physical now. All ages welcome – even adults! Find the location nearest you, here.

* Parental consent required for patients under the age of 18.