Every year, parents flood medical offices for a last minute sports physical so their child can participate in team sports. Many adolescents and their parents believe that a sports physical is equivalent to an annual physical, but this is not true. The sports physical is designed to clear an athlete for participation in sports while the annual exam includes much more.

What is a sports physical?

A sports physical is different than the annual physical because it focuses on reviewing your child’s current health status and medical history to ensure that your child is healthy enough to play his or her sport. Your physician will review any preexisting injuries and assess your child’s current fitness level to determine that there is no risk for your child playing his or her sport. The areas of focus during your child’s sports physical typically include:

  • Height and weight
  • Vision and hearing
  • Heart health
  • Blood pressure
  • Muscle and bone health, flexibility and strength

What is an annual physical?

An annual physical is different from a sports physical because it not only focuses on the physical health of your child but the developmental, emotional and social aspects of your child’s health as well. Your physician will focus on the overall health of your child by doing a complete physical examination and go over your family’s medical history to make sure preventative health measures are in place if necessary. A full assessment of your child’s cognitive and social milestones will be looked at to ensure proper development in those areas. Your physician may also use this time to discuss important topics revolving around drugs and alcohol, peer pressure, healthy relationships and puberty. Annual visits are also an important way for your medical provider to develop a healthy and trusting relationship with your child. The areas of focus and topics discussed during your child’s annual exam should include those listed above from your child’s sports physical, plus the following:

  • Health history
  • Immunization
  • Lab work, if needed
  • Behavioral and developmental screening, if needed
  • Nutrition and sleep habits
  • Preventative health
  • Adolescent issues

Can the sports physical and annual physical done in the same visit?

Yes! Many primary care doctors prefer to perform both a sports and annual physical at the same visit. This visit is a covered benefit through most insurance policies. Plan ahead and make your child’s appointment soon. When was the last time your family had a health physical?

For more information on Primary Care Providers who provide Annual Physicals or other Community Resources, contact the Tahoe Forest Center for Health to speak with Tahoe Forest Health System Customer Care Navigators at 587-3769.