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Playing sports is a great way to have fun and stay fit. And anyone who has played sports knows that you have to pay some extra attention to your health. If you play team sports, you may have had a sports physical. A sports physical is a visit to the doctor to make sure you're in good enough shape to play the sport you want to play.

Sports physicals aren't just for kids. Even sports superstars need to go to the doctor to make sure they are healthy and strong before they hit the field.

You might think of going to your doctor as something you do only when you're sick or maybe once a year for a checkup, but your body works hard when you run fast, kick, throw, swim, and tumble. That's why a sports physical is important, especially when you're just starting to swim competitively; do gymnastics; or play a team sport, such as soccer, baseball, football, or basketball.

What Happens During a Sports Physical

There are two main parts to a sports physical: your medical history and the physical exam.

Your medical history includes questions about illnesses and injuries you have had, such as asthma or a broken leg. It is important to know about medical problems that run in your family or any medicines you take on a daily basis. For example, has anyone in your family had heart trouble? Another important question is whether you've ever passed out, felt dizzy, or felt pain in your chest while running or playing. You should fill out the form with your mom or dad so the answers are the same. Your doctor may ask additional questions during the exam.

During the physical exam, the doctor will:

  • measure your height
  • check your weight
  • take your blood pressure
  • listen to your heart and lungs
  • feel your abdomen
  • look in your ears, nose, and throat
  • check your eyesight
  • test how strong and flexible you are

This is also your chance to discuss any other questions you have about your health and playing sports.

What If the Doctor Thinks Something Is Wrong?

The good news is that almost all kids can play the sports they want to play. If you have a health problem, you can usually take medicine or get treatment that will let you play your sport safely. If you have an old injury, the doctor may be able to suggest exercises and other treatments to help you fully recover from it. Even kids with serious health problems often find a sport in which they can participate.

Where to Get a Sports Physical

Some older kids may be able to get a sports physical at school. Sometimes schools will set aside the gym or another large space for sports physicals, and several doctors will set up stations. You then go from station to station, and each person does a different part of the overall exam.

It's up to a parent to get you an appointment for a sports physical. It's a good idea to do it about 6 weeks before the sports season starts, so make sure to plan ahead. Even if you get a sports physical, it's still a smart idea to have an annual checkup. Your regular doctor knows you better and will be better able to spot changes in your overall health.

Once you've had your physical and the doctor gives you the OK, you can start the fun part: becoming the best athlete you can be!

Reviewed by: Alfred Atanda Jr., MD
Date reviewed: August 2010

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