After months of being dormant during the winter, most children who participate in sports are anxious to get back in the game as soon as warm weather arrives. While increased exercise and participation in sports outweigh the risk of injury or illness, it is crucial that every child undergo pre – participation sports physicals before beginning practice with their chosen sport. The same goes for professional athletes around the world. In the United States, pre – participation exams (PPE) are required for professional and student-athletes of all ages who want to participate in sports and/or sports camps.
But whether you’re a student athlete or a professional athlete, pre-participation sports physicals are identical.
In the winter or “off-season”, the players are usually coaching, working or playing overseas. When they re-join the Atlanta Dream, they have to undergo sports physicals, each and every year. It is important to get physicals because your health status is capable of changing during the year/off-season. For student athletes and professional athletes, it is important for medical staff to re-assess if there are any health and or orthopedic issues that have occurred in the interim.
But are sports physicals really necessary for both junior level and pro? Absolutely! A PPE provides the following prior to participation:
- Identifies any potential life-threatening conditions, such as risk of sudden cardiac death.
- Evaluates existing conditions that may need treatment prior to participation, or monitoring to avoid future injury.
- Identifies any orthopedic conditions that may require physical therapy or other treatment.
- Identifies athletes who may be at higher risk for violence, substance abuse, STDs, depression, eating disorders, anemia, asthma, hypertension, etc.
- Reviews concussion history (if previously concussed, the PPE determines if the student-athlete is still experiencing post-concussion symptoms).
There are two portions of the physical:
- Review of medical history: Professional athletes or student athletes and their parents need to come prepared to openly and honestly discuss all medical history. Knowing the complete history helps doctors identify conditions that might affect the student’s ability to participate and/or perform in their sport or activity. This is not a time to try and hide past injuries or medical conditions.
- Physical exam: many schools perform partial physical exams, but if you would like a more complete physical exam, visit your family’s personal physician or pediatrician. He or she may refer your child to a Sports Medicine specialist if he thinks the child needs further evaluation for orthopedic concerns or if the student has had a history of concussions.
In addition to the two portions of a physical for student athletes, professional athletes have an additional step in the process. Professional athletes are evaluated by the team athletic trainer first. A baseline neuropsych test is done, in order to know where they should report to should one have a concussion during the season while on the court. Cardiac testing and a physical exam is done by the team physician who will go over orthopedic and medical concerns as needed. Additional testing like lab work is also required to check for any abnormalities in each player.
Sports physicals usually occur six weeks prior to the start of sports or training camp. Most student-athletes and professionals are cleared for full participation following a sports physical exam, but those who require follow-up care are generally cleared from all potential complications within the six week timeframe. Parents of student athletes are encouraged to check with their child’s school about sports physicals and if it is being provided to the athletes.
About Emory Sports Medicine Center
At the Emory Sports Medicine Center, our experts specialize in advanced procedures to treat and repair a wide range of sports related injuries. Recently recognized as one of the nation’s TOP 50 orthopaedics programs, Emory Orthopaedics, Sports and Spine has 6 convenient locations across metro Atlanta, as well as 6 physical therapy locations. To make an appointment to see one of our Emory sports medicine specialists, please call 404-778-3350 or complete our online appointment request form.
About Dr. Mines
Dr. Brandon Mines is board certified in both family practice and sports medicine. He has focused his clinical interest on sports injuries and conditions of the shoulder, elbow, wrist/hand, knee, foot and ankle. He is head team physician for the Women’s National Basketball Association’s (WNBA) Atlanta Dream, Decatur High School and a team physician for NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. He is also a rotational physician for United States soccer teams.
Dr. Mines enjoys giving talks and lectures regarding the prevention of sports injuries. In fact, as an active member of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine and the American Society for Sports Medicine, Dr. Mines has attended and presented at various national conferences. Through the years, he has helped all levels of athletes return to the top of their game.