School and sports are right around the corner. Sports physicals are an important part of returning to school. Anyone participating in school activities usually needs a pre-participation clearance from a licensed medical professional. Sports physicals, also called pre-participation physicals, are intended to identify those individuals who may be at risk for underlying health problems, especially heart problems. The most common identifiable cause of sudden death on the playing field is called cardiomyopathy. While it’s not diagnosed by physical exam, the history of the athlete can identify those who are most at risk. If the athlete has a history of fainting, chest pain, dizziness or chest pain with activity; or if they have a family history of sudden, unexplained death in anyone under 50 then they are at risk of having an underlying, potentially life-threatening medical condition. These are the athletes that providers are seeking to identify during the sports physicals.
During a sports physical exam, the medical provider will address concerns that may restrict the athlete from participating. Some concerns may include knee instability, femur fracture, elbow dislocation, irregular heartbeat, and more. The medical provider does a complete review of the child’s medical history, checks the child’s blood pressure, weight, height, muscles, bones and joints, listens to their heart and checks their vision.
You can help keep your children healthy throughout the year by helping them eat healthy, stay moving while at home and limiting screen time, keeping them up-to-date on immunizations and vaccinations, and much more. This will help your child as an athlete perform to their fullest potential.
Immunizations can be administered during sports physical exams. Immunizations help protect children from potentially fatal diseases such as pertussis (whooping cough), flu, and measles. All school children must be up to date on their immunizations by October 1 to start in public school.
Influenza season generally starts in the fall of the year, commonly increasing in October. Most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February, although activity can last as late as May. This too can many times be prevented by vaccination. Influenza is responsible for billions of dollars in lost productivity each year in the United States.
(Beth Perius, PhD, ENP, FNP-BC, is a family nurse practitioner at CHI St. Alexius Health Human Performance Center. She received her Master of Science in Nursing and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Houston, TX.)