Also known as a pre-participation physical exam or PPE, a sports physical is a vital part of an athlete′s regimen. A preseason physical exam is required by most high schools. Competitive club sports, however, generally do not require a PPE. Strong advice is given to athletes participating in club sports to have a physical exam.
A pre-participation physical exam is a screening examination of an athlete before the beginning of a sports season. The objectives of a PPE include:
– Screening for life-threatening conditions like asthma or heart conditions
– Screening and evaluation for the risk of concussion
– Screening for avoidable and/or treatable muscle or joint injuries
– An opportunity for young athletes to have a discussion with a physician which may lead to the discovery of an issue that can be easily solved or prevented.
Exact requirements for PPEs, such as the frequency of subsequent examinations, vary among schools, organizations, and states. A sports physical may be performed by a sports physician, a primary care physician, or a medical team.
Most athletes are granted permission to fully participate after a PPE. Occasionally, however, some athletes may require further evaluation or testing before being granted permission. Rarely, participation will be restricted requiring the athlete to find an alternative sport in which they can participate. For instance, an athlete affected by a spine injury would most likely be restricted from playing tackle football but may be given permission to swim. Unfortunately, conditions such as cardiac, musculoskeletal, neurological, infectious, or pulmonary issues may result in complete disqualification from participating in some or even all sports. Cardiac issues are the most important as they commonly lead to the sudden death of an athlete. Any athlete who has experienced shortness of breath, chest pain, lightheadedness, palpitations, or syncope must be thoroughly examined before being given permission to participate in any sport.
A sports physical is an important part of an athlete′s regimen resulting in a healthier athlete who will be able to participate at their best.