Tips for your child's sports physical exam

We talk about how to get ready for a sports physical exam.

August 10, 2020


From playing football to running cross country, Washington state requires students to get a sports physical before participating in school athletics. To make sure your child is ready to hit the field and play safely, be sure to schedule a physical ahead of time.

What is a sports physical?

A sports physical determines if it's safe for your child to take part in sports. It's also known as a preparticipation physical exam (PPE).

By doing a review of your child's medical history and a physical exam, sports physicals can be an effective tool in finding medical problems, such as:

  • Asthma
  • Concussions
  • Congenital (already present at birth) heart defects

A sports physical does not replace an annual wellness physical. In Washington state, a sports physical exam is valid for 24 months.

Fill out paperwork in advance

To be ready and to save time, please have all school paperwork completely filled out before your appointment.

Talk to your child ahead of time

 Sometimes kids can be embarrassed talking about health issues, even to a doctor. You can help by talking with your child before the appointment. Take notes and bring them to the appointment. Ask your child about:

  • Breathing: Has your child had issues breathing when playing, running, hiking or playing sports?

  • Vision: Does your child ever have trouble seeing close up or far away? If your child wears glasses or contacts, please bring those to the appointment.

  • Medical history: Does your child have any other known health problems? Heart problems? Seizures? Severe allergies or anaphylaxis? (Anaphylaxis is a sudden and serious allergic reaction or bad response that can cause someone to stop breathing.) Has your child had any major injuries?

  • Family history: Has anyone on either side of the family ever died suddenly under 50 years old? If so, how?

Give your doctor correct information

The more correct and organized your child's health information, the better your health care provider can care for your child. If your child is entering the teen years, it's important to check in about any joint pain (such as knees or elbows) or other issues that you may notice.

Get the most out of your appointment

It's important to talk about daily habits, what your child eats and lifestyle choices.

Get ahead of the game

Your doctor will do an exam and take all of the information gathered into account. Then he or she will decide if your child is cleared to play and for which sport(s). If a health issue is found that requires a follow up or specialty care, your doctor will advise you.

This could be something as simple as getting your child's eyes checked or something more serious. But in the long run, this may actually help your child's athletic performance.

For example, your child may have knee pain due to a poor running technique that a sports medicine doctor could correct. Or your child may need a new inhaler (asthma medicine) to help them breathe more easily and stop sports-induced asthma.

How to get a sports physical

Call your pediatrician or primary care physician's office to schedule your child's sports physical exam to make sure they are cleared to play.

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The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.