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Explaining the Importance of Sports Physicals

Student receiving sports physical
A nurse checks the blood pressure of a student.

Published on August 20, 2021

Read Time: Three Minutes

Sports physicals -- or pre-participation physicals -- can help identify and address any health concerns that student athletes may have to make sure they can safely take part in sports.

Getting sports physicals has become especially important for young athletes during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Katie Cameron, MD, a pediatrician with the Phelps Health Medical Group.

“Some athletes have developed new health problems, including changes in heart and lung function, after a COVID-19 infection,” Dr. Cameron says. “Ensuring these athletes are fully recovered is vital before they resume physical activities.”

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic may have caused some adolescents to change their activity and exercise habits.

“It’s important for student athletes and their parents to discuss with their pediatrician or family doctor about safe ways to return to more intense exercise and athletic activity,” Dr. Cameron says.

Dr. Cameron recommends children who had moderate or severe symptoms with COVID-19 to be checked by their doctor or care provider before they resume sports.

What to Expect

A sports physical is divided into two parts -- a review of the student’s medical history and a physical exam.

Student athletes in Missouri and their parents must complete a sports physical form provided by the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA).

Dr. Cameron says this form, which asks questions about the child’s medical history and family history and screens for other health problems, can be completed before the sports physical.

Parents and children should complete and bring in the family and medical history form to the visit. 

"If the forms are completed in advance, we can review and discuss any concerns together," Dr. Cameron says.

During the sports physical, a physician or care provider will take the child’s vital signs and conduct a physical exam to look for any possible abnormalities or risk factors that need to be addressed to ensure the child’s safe participation in sports.

“Your child’s provider also can review any prior injuries and current concerns as well as discuss preventive measures to keep your kid safe when playing sports,” Dr. Cameron says.

When to Get a Sports Physical

Sports physicals can be scheduled at the same time as a child’s annual wellness visit, well-child exam or back-to-school immunizations.

“During your kid’s annual wellness or well-child appointment, make sure you let your doctor know your child needs a sports physical, too, so that the proper forms can be completed and the appropriate concerns for a sports physical are addressed,” Dr. Cameron says.

Sports physicals can be completed at any time of year, she says, not just before a sports season.

Schedule an Appointment

Sports physicals are offered at Phelps Health clinics in Rolla, Salem, St. James, Vienna and Waynesville.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, sports physicals are being provided at Phelps Health by appointment only at this time.

Scheduling in advance helps to make sure there is enough time for more evaluation to be completed if any concerns are identified, Dr. Cameron says.

Call your doctor, primary care provider or pediatrician’s office or log in to MyChart to schedule a sports physical.

If you have not already established care with a Phelps Health care provider, please call (573) 364-9000.

Found in: Care Exercise Health Pediatrics Sports Physicals Students Wellness