Sports Physicals in Portland

Ensure your child’s health before they join a sports team

You know sports are a great way to help children stay fit, learn new skills and socialize. But you might not know why the physical that comes at the beginning of the sports season is so important.

What is a sports physical?

In the sports medicine field, the sports physical exam is known as a preparticipation physical examination (PPE). The exam helps determine whether it’s safe for you to participate in a particular sport. In the state of Oregon, students in grades seven to 12 are required to have a physical examination once every two years if they want to start a new sport or begin a new competitive season. But even if a PPE isn’t required, doctors still highly recommend the exam.

The two main parts to a sports physical are the medical history and the physical exam.

Medical history

This part 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 students can bring home, so they can ask their parents or guardians to help fill in the answers. If possible, they should ask both parents about family medical history.

Looking at patterns of illness in your family is a very good indicator of any potential conditions. It’s unlikely that any health conditions you have will completely prevent you from playing sports.

Physical examination

During the physical part of the exam, 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 the child has started or has already gone through puberty the doctor may ask girls and boys 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.

A doctor will also ask questions about the use of drugs, alcohol or dietary supplements, including steroids or other "performance enhancers" and weight-loss supplements. These can affect a person's health.

At the end of the exam, the doctor will either fill out and sign a form if everything checks out OK or, in some cases, recommend a follow-up exam, additional tests or specific treatment for medical problems.

Tips for young athletes

Picture a school classroom. Big kids are often the same age as small ones, and mixing them up in a game can get the smaller ones hurt. Even the bigger kids can have immature muscles and bones and slower reaction times than adults.

Young athletes are at risk for:

  • Sprains and strains
  • Bruises
  • Overheating injuries — dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Skeletal injuries — broken bones, stress fractures and damage to growth plates (areas where young bones are developing)

The right stuff

Keeping young athletes safe should be a team effort. Parents and coaches need to match the child with the sport, and they should provide the right safety equipment.

They should also help kids remember these guidelines:

  • Start with a checkup from your family physician before enrolling in a sports program
  • Get in shape for the sport
  • Know the rules and follow them
  • Wear the right gear, such as helmets, body padding or face guards, depending on the sport
  • Warm up before you play
  • Take water breaks while you play
  • If you’re in pain, don’t play

The best intentions

Children should be encouraged to report injuries or pain to coaches and parents, who can be sure they get appropriate care.

Parents and coaches can also team up to avoid a “win at all costs” attitude in young athletes. Remember that youth sports should always be fun.

Call (503) 261-6929 to find a physician in your neighborhood offering sports physicals. The in-clinic cost will be $35.

Sports physicals are available at the following clinics: