Get Ahead of the Game: Schedule Your Child's Sports Physical Early

Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine

Get Ahead of the Game: Schedule Your Child's Sports Physical Early

girls playing soccer

Scheduling a child's school or sports physical can be a tricky task if put off until the last minute.

What many parents don't know is that they can schedule these exams now and avoid the push for appointments that comes in August.

While local clinics make every attempt to accommodate the demand, each new school year they see a heavy volume of students needing physicals for sports, kindergarten registration and other periodic check-ups.

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) requires physicals for students involved in interscholastic athletics. A physical card signed by a physician must be on file at your child's school before he or she is able to participate in sports practices or events. A physical must be completed no less than every other school year, with April 1 the earliest date of examination, so exams scheduled now are valid for the following two school years.

Sports and other activity screening examinations include a pre-visit questionnaire to be completed by the athlete and parent. The "Pre-participation Physical Evaluation History Form" is mailed ahead of time with patient reminder letters and is also available via the link below.  Pre-participation exams are performed by nurse practitioners or physicians, and a physician signs the card to complete the process. 

Pre-participation Physical Evaluation History Form (pdf)

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Screening for a Number of Problems
Brittany Allen, MD, a pediatrician at UW Health University Station, says the sports physical is essential because it provides a complete pre-participation exam and screens for a number of problems.

“A sports pre-participation exam helps to ensure that the athlete is as healthy as possible going into the season, while identifying and treating any medical problems that might limit safe participation, such as asthma or heart disease,” says Dr. Allen. 

“An athlete’s health is about much more than treating injuries as they arise. It’s also about prevention: helping an athlete optimize their overall health and identifying risk factors so that we can prevent injury with strengthening or other appropriate interventions. It is also a great opportunity to talk with adolescents and screen for substance abuse problems, mental health issues and school difficulties."

Regardless of participation in sports, however, Dr. Allen says that all adolescents should be checked every one to two years.

"The unfortunate thing is that many teens don't see their physicians for a regular physical," Dr. Allen says. "And teens are the very people that might benefit the most from a comprehensive evaluation."

Regular Check-Ups

A healthy child with no chronic medical problems should have a physical at least every one to two years after the age of five, according to Dr. Allen. But children who have chronic underlying medical conditions like asthma, recurring infections, severe allergies or use medications on a regular basis might need to be seen more often for the best management of their conditions and medications.

"These physicals are also a good time for us to check your child's immunization records," Dr. Allen says. "Several changes have been made to immunization schedules in recent years, and we can use this opportunity to make sure your child is up-to-date."