There are two main parts to a sports physical: the medical history, and the physical exam.
Medical History - This part of the exam includes questions about:
- Serious illnesses among family members
- Illnesses that you've had or have now (e.g. asthma, diabetes, epilepsy)
- Previous hospitalizations or surgeries
- Allergies (e.g. insect bites)
- Past injuries (e.g. concussions, sprains or bone fractures)
- Whether you've ever passed out, felt dizzy, had chest pain or had trouble breathing during exercise
The medical history questions are on a form that you can bring home, ask your parents to help fill in the answers. If possible, ask both parents about family medical history.
Looking at patterns of illness in your family is an indicator of any potential conditions you may have. It's important that you answer any questions about medical history accurately and honestly, don't try to guess the answers. Most sports medicine doctors believe the medical history is the most important part of the sports physical exam, take time to answer the questions carefully.
Physical Examination - This part of the exam includes:
- Height and weight check
- Blood pressure and pulse (heart rate and rhythm) reading
- Vision test
- Checking your heart, lungs, abdomen, ears, nose and throat
- Evaluating your posture, joints, strength and flexibility
The doctor will also ask questions about the use of drugs, alcohol or dietary supplements including steroids or other performance enhancers that could affect a person's health.
Some schools require a sport physical to include an electrocardiogram (EKG). The test takes about 10-minutes and measures the electrical activity of the heart. Electrodes that measure heart rate and rhythm are placed on the chest, arms and legs. Note: EKGs are not painful.
At the end of the exam, the doctor fills out and signs a form, and in some cases recommend a follow-up exam, additional tests or specific treatment for medical problems.
Why is a sport physical important
A sports physical can help you find out about and deal with health problems that might interfere with your participation in a sport.
Note: A sports physical does not substitute for a well child visit, where a more thorough exam is performed with immunizations and other preventive health issues are addressed. Most healthcare providers recommend yearly, dedicated well child visits for all school aged children and adolescents. In most cases insurance does not pay for camp and sport physicals, so they could be an out of pocket expense.