Why Getting a Sports Physical Is So Important

You’ve been taking your child to their annual wellness exam since they were born. And as soon as they started school, you made sure to schedule their back-to-school physicals in time for the first day of class. Now that your older child is ready to play sports, it’s time to schedule one more important exam: a sports physical.

Also known as a preparticipation physical examination (PPE), a sports physical assesses specific aspects of your child’s health and family medical history to determine whether it’s safe for them to participate in sports.  

Most states require kids and teens to undergo sports physicals before taking part in an athletic activity or starting a new competitive season. Although the state of Colorado only requests sports physicals for high school-aged athletes, here at Family Practice Associates, PC, we strongly encourage young athletes of all ages — whether they’re in grade school, middle school, or high school — to have an annual sports physical. Here’s why.

Why should my child have a sports physical?

A sports physical is a comprehensive medical evaluation designed to identify any potential areas of concern before your child begins a new sport or heads into the next season of a sport they’ve already played.

To maximize your child’s safety on the field, court, or track, a sports physical aims to:

A sports physical also aims to prevent injury by drawing attention to the ways your child’s developmental state can increase their risk of injury on the field. For example, children and adolescents have soft cartilage growth plates at the ends of their arm and leg bones that are more susceptible to fracture. Because growth plate injuries are more challenging to repair, we take special care to help you and your child understand the best ways to prevent them.

What does a sports physical cover?

A sports physical consists of two critical components: Your child’s health history (both personal and family-related) and a medical exam.

The health history portion of the visit is particularly important, as knowing your child’s full history is key to diagnosing previously undetected problems, assessing known conditions, and ultimately granting clearance to participate in athletic activities.

Personal history questions cover all known illnesses and conditions, ranging from asthma and allergies to epilepsy and diabetes. They also cover any past hospitalizations, surgeries, and musculoskeletal injuries and check whether your young athlete has ever experienced chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, or fainting during exercise.

Family history questions cover any serious illnesses that affect close relatives, including those who died from heart disease before the age of 50.

Just like any well-child visit or back-to-school physical, the exam portion of a sports physical starts with a full assessment of your child’s vital signs, including temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration rate. Sports physicals also assess:

The vision portion of the exam helps determine whether your young athlete requires corrective lenses to participate in sports. Even if they have perfect vision, we recommend protective eyewear for all athletes who plan to participate in a contact sport.

When should I schedule my child’s sports physical?

Ideally, you should schedule your child’s sports physical 6-8 weeks before their competitive season is set to begin.

This advanced scheduling gives you plenty of time to gather the forms and records you need to bring to the appointment. More importantly, if the exam indicates a need for any follow-up tests or appointments, your young athlete will still have plenty of time to obtain full medical clearance before their first scheduled practice.


Here at Family Practice Associates, PC, we often complete sports physicals in conjunction with annual wellness exams or back-to-school physicals. If you’d like to schedule this kind of two-in-one visit, let us know, so we can be sure to allot enough time at your appointment. To schedule a sports physical, call our office in Broomfield, Colorado, or book it online.

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