Many athletes – teens in particular – view sports physicals as just another routine, unnecessary task; but, in reality, they’re critical for identifying potential health problems before they snowball into a real issue.
#1: Fill Out the Health History Form as Accurately as Possible
Health history forms should be completed in as much detail as possible because the answers help your doctor tailor the physical to your specific health needs. “It’s designed to identify red flags in a patient’s personal or family history and then, once the physician has that document, we look it over and that helps us know if we need to add anything to a standard physical,” David Hayes DO, of Health First – Mariemont, explains.
For example, even though physicals don’t include a concussion baseline exam, the standard health history form includes questions formulated to trigger a concern for a concussion. If you fill out the form honestly then your doctor will be aware you could have sustained a concussion. In turn, the physical exam should find any symptoms of an ongoing problem.
#2: There Are Certain Red Flags Your Doctor Looks for to Clear You
While most physicals are pretty straight-forward and the athlete passes with no problems, if you’ve had a previous injury, or have known medical conditions or a family history of certain diseases – particularly, cardiovascular – those would alert your doctor for further questioning.
Additionally, the onset of new symptoms tip your doctor off that you may need to be examined by a specialist before you're cleared. “A new heart murmur would probably be the most common trigger,” Dr. Hayes points out. “A heart murmur would trigger a consultation with a pediatric cardiologist and, often times, they do simple tests and the vast majority of those are benign.”
#3: Don't Hesitate to Ask Questions
If you have any health concerns at all, Dr. Hayes encourages you to mention them to your doctor. “Most kids don’t have a concern and just want the form signed,” he says. “But, if you do [have an unmentioned concern], it might not be addressed at that visit." However, it could lead to another doctor appointment in the future, so it's better to bring up the issue as soon as possible.
#4: Boys vs. Girls: Their Exams Vary Slightly
Sports physicals for boys and girls are nearly the same; however, if you have started or already gone through puberty, your doctor may ask different questions, based on your gender.