In the sports medicine field, the sports physical exam is generally known and accepted as a Pre-participation Physical Examination (PPE). The exam helps determine whether it’s safe for you to participate in a particular sport. Maryland, as most other states, actually requires that kids and teens have a sports physical before they can start a new sport or begin a new competitive season. But even if a PPE wasn’t required, we at Medical Access PC would always highly recommend getting one.

The two main elements of sports physicals are the medical history and the physical exam.

 

Medical History

This portion of the exam includes questions about:

  • Serious illnesses among other family members
  • Illnesses that you had when you were younger or may have now, such as asthma, diabetes, or epilepsy
  • Previous hospitalizations or surgeries
  • Allergies (to insect bites, for example)
  • Past injuries (including concussions, sprains, or bone fractures)
  • Whether you’ve ever passed out, felt dizzy, had chest pain, or had trouble breathing during exercise
  • Any medications that you are on (including over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements, and prescription medications)

The medical history questions are usually on a form that you can bring home, so if you need to, ask your parents to help you fill in the answers. If possible, ask both parents about family medical history.

Looking at patterns of illness in your family are very good indicators of any potential conditions you may have. Most doctors believe the medical history is the most important part of the sports physical exam, so take time to answer the questions carefully. It’s unlikely that any health conditions you have will prevent you from playing sports completely.

Answer the questions as well as you can. Don’t GUESS the answers or give answers you THINK your doctor wants. Your WELLNESS and even YOUR LIFE may depend on these answers.

 

The Actual Physical Examination

During this examination, the doctor will usually:

  • Record your height and weight
  • Take a blood pressure and pulse (heart rate and rhythm) reading
  • Test your vision
  • Check your heart, lungs, abdomen, ears, nose, and throat
  • Evaluate your posture, joints, strength, and flexibility

Although most aspects of the exam will be the same for males and females, if a person has started or already gone through puberty, the doctor may ask girls and guys different questions. For example, if a girl is heavily involved in a lot of active sports, the doctor may ask her about her period and diet to make sure she doesn’t have any unusual symptoms.

The doctor will also ask questions about use of drugs, alcohol, or dietary supplements, including steroids or other “performance enhancers