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When, Where and How to Get a Sports Physical

April 10, 2023
April 10, 2023

Summer sports are just around the corner. Do you know how to get a sports physical for your child?

An annual physical is recommended for everyone, especially for young athletes. Sports physicals are generally required for student athletes before their sports season begins and are sometimes needed before summer camp participation.

Even if you or a child isn’t engaging in the most physically demanding sport, you can improve performance and reduce the risk of injury by assessing fitness in a thorough sport physical exam.

When should I schedule a school sports physical?

Schedule your sports physical or your children’s school physicals at least 6 weeks before the season begins. This gives sports organizers a chance to review paperwork and approve every athlete for play without delay. If the season starts in the fall, aim for completing physical health exams by early July. For summer sports or a sports camp, early spring is the time to get a sports physical exam.

Why are sports physicals necessary?

Most schools and many summer camps require a pre-participation physical for every person playing sports with the organization. This helps coaches get a baseline of physical fitness and be aware of preexisting conditions and potential issues that could affect the health and well-being of that athlete.

What do they do at a sports physical?

What happens at a sports physical may differ slightly according to the physician, the organization requesting the sports exam and the sport(s) for which the exam is required. However, most sports physicals will include an assessment of overall health, so the examiner can ensure safe participation.

What does a sports physical consist of, specifically? Though some may vary, most will include:

  • Vital statistics – height and weight, blood pressure, pulse, respiration and oxygen saturation
  • Medical history, including medical conditions and family medical history
  • General physical examination of the heart, lungs, abdomen, ears, nose and throat
  • May check strength, flexibility and reflexes
  • Vision examination

Remember, you and the provider will need to fill out your respective sections of the sports physical form for the paperwork to be valid.

What should I bring to a sports physical exam?

If the school, camp or league requiring the physical exam has provided paperwork, take that to the exam appointment. The care provider conducting the exam may need to fill out or sign the documents. Also bring a list of questions you wish to ask, as well as medical documentation:

  • Immunization/vaccination records
  • All medications your child takes, as well as over-the-counter meds and supplements
  • Primary care provider’s contact information if the exam is performed elsewhere
  • Medical history records

Some organizations may have specific requirements that differ from others, so carefully review any paperwork provided to you.

How long does a sports physical take and how much does a sports physical cost?

Sports physicals do not require a big time investment. Most will take just 20-30 minutes from start to finish, plus minimal time in the waiting room. A sports exam is not a huge financial burden either, with most only requiring a small copay with insurance.

How long is a sports physical good for?

That depends. Some may be valid for the calendar year, but the school or organization you are working with may require an exam before each sport season. Clarify the policies before each new sports season.

Where can I get school sports physicals near me?

A pediatrician or family medicine physician can perform your or your child’s exam, but that’s not your only option. BJC also has several Convenient Care locations in St. Louis and surrounding areas where examinations can be scheduled any day of the week. Save your spot online for same-day or next-day appointments.

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