Sports are an excellent way for children to stay active, learn sportsmanship and be involved with friends. But, before your child participates, it is important to make sure there are no hidden health issues that could compromise his safety.
Dr. Takashi Hirata of Novant Health Hillsdale Medical Associates says while many schools and athletic leagues require sports physicals before participation, those physicals are best when combined with ongoing medical care. “The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians both recommend school-age children and teens get yearly check-ups,” Dr. Hirata said. “Sports clearance can be performed along with an annual well-child or adolescent visit, and most physicians will fill out forms for future needs.”
Dr. Hirata says that even though these services can be performed at the same appointment, it is still necessary to devote a portion of the appointment only to issues that could affect sports participation. “Sports physicals allow doctors to focus on conditions that could potentially lead to danger or have long-lasting effects,” he said. “Undiagnosed asthma, propensity for concussions that could indicate future concussion risk or potential heart problems that could present as subtle murmurs are some of the conditions that can be detected.”
Your child’s doctor will consider those observations along with any history of ongoing medical conditions or past injuries to assess your child’s ability to safely participate in a sport.
Once on the playing field, Dr. Hirata says some simple precautions can help prevent injury. “Always stretch well and stay hydrated,” he said, “and take a step up approach over the first few days of practice to acclimatize the body to heat and level of activity. Cross training to strengthen different muscles during the course of the season also helps to reduce wear and tear of same muscles, tendons and ligaments, and could reduce injury.
Dr. Hirata also notes it is important to have any needed medications, including inhalers and Epi-pens, refilled and close by in case your child needs to use them.
“The point of a sports physical is not to prevent participation,” Dr. Hirata said. “Your child’s doctor will be focused on guiding the athlete and providing appropriate support.”