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Does Your Child Need a Sports Physical?

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Does my child really need a sports physical? That’s a question that parents often ask.

For the answer, I turned to Dr. Chris Koutures — a pediatrician and sports medicine specialist — to provide a better understanding as to the need for sports physicals.

Here’s what Dr. Koutures had to say:

Sports physicals offer golden opportunities to share information and listen to the needs of patients.  Sure, they frequently are viewed by parents and young athletes as more annoyance than necessity.

It’s easy for sports physicals to turn out to be nothing more than a quick check of vital signs followed by a brief exam, but if trusted medical providers can up our sports physicals game, we can make the young athlete’s game so much better. There are a host of things to look at, both with general medical and sports- specific issues. Every time we get to sit down with a family, we have the chance to provide valuable education. Medical types call this focus on injury prevention and risk reduction “anticipatory guidance.”

Athletes and families can look at it as an investment in not only fixing current problems, but also trying to reduce future issues.

Comprehensive sports physicals take more time, but investing in a visit with your trusted medical provider can pay big dividends.

SPORTS PHYSICALS: TAKING THE TIME TO ADD VALUE TO YOUR PERFORMANCE

Concerned about eating right to gain weight and get stronger? Not sure what are the best choices between games over a long weekend tournament? Heard about teammates taking supplements? Should you use them?

A proper sports physical will discuss sports nutrition to make a more informed athlete. Are you a soccer player hearing that you might have a higher risk of knee injuries? Do you want to reduce your risk of shoulder or elbow problems in baseball? Sports physicals can provide valuable injury-reduction tips and programs.

SPORTS PHYSICALS: HOW KNOWING YOUR PAST CAN IMPROVE YOUR FUTURE

Every physical should begin with a look at your personal history. We can look at past medical records including a growth scale to see if there has been too little or too much growth. We can also see if your shots are up-to-date. And, we might know things about you that you may have forgotten or do not want to admit.

For example, you might mark “no history of asthma” on that long checklist, but records show that you had an asthma flare-up a few years ago.

Here are just two examples showing the importance of going to a provider who knows you and your history:

Knowing about a past asthma incident. A visit with your trusted health provider will likely lead to recommendations to get things under control. I can’t tell you how many times some minor tweaks in asthma care have given athletes more endurance, speed and ability to star on the field. However, if the medical provider doesn’t know about you and your asthma, the doctor can’t offer the same level of help.

Suffered 2 past concussions? Parents concerned about continuing to play contact sports? This is where in-depth sports physicals covering school grades, future goals, friendships, and mood can help make the best decision.

PHYSICALS: AN IMPORTANT TIME TO LISTEN

Sports physicals also provide an opportunity to have an open dialogue about alcohol, drugs and mental health issues. This discussion definitely takes time and might be best done one-on-one between athlete and medical provider. Indeed, some athletes may be embarrassed or not want to admit any problems. If they are going to open up and talk, it will most likely to be to someone that they already feel comfortable with sharing such sensitive information.  Allowing the chance to ask questions and simply listen to the answers can be a healthy start.

Many adolescents — both athletes and non-athletes — feel overwhelmed, anxious, depressed or out of control with alcohol and drug use. If healthcare providers can do a better job of asking, listening, and addressing these issues, we can make a big impact in the the lives of our patients.

Sports physicals might be the one time a year where we get to sit down with athletes and their families to cover some important issues. This isn’t just checking off a box. It’s an important and valuable medical check-up.

Dr. Agran & Dr. Koutures
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