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Sports physical

A person gets a sports physical by a doctor to find out if it's safe to start a new sport or a new sports season. Most states require a sports physical before children and teens can play.

Sports physicals do not take the place of regular medical care or routine checkups.

Why do you need a sports physical?

The sports physical is done to:

  • Find out if you are in good health
  • Measure the maturity of your body
  • Measure your physical fitness
  • Learn about injuries you have now
  • Find conditions you may have been born with that could make you more likely to be injured
  • Find anything that may make you more likely to get injured

The doctor can give advice on how to protect yourself from injury while playing a sport, and how to safely play with a medical condition or chronic illness. For example, if you have asthma, you may need a change in medicine to better control it while playing sports.

What happens during a sports physical?

Doctors may perform sports physicals differently from one another. But they always include a conversation about your medical history and a physical exam.

You may get a form to fill out before your appointment. When you have the physical, bring with you the information the doctor will want to know about your health, your family's health, your medical problems, and what medicines you take.

The physical exam is similar to your annual check-up, but with some added things that relate to playing sports. The doctor will focus on the health of your lungs, heart, bones, and joints. Your doctor may:

  • Measure your height and weight
  • Measure blood pressure and pulse
  • Test your vision
  • Check your heart, lungs, belly, ears, nose, and throat
  • Check your joints, strength, flexibility, and posture

Your doctor may ask questions about:

  • Diet
  • Use of drugs, alcohol, and supplements
  • About your menstrual periods if you're a girl or woman

What information should you bring to the visit?

If you get a form for your medical history, fill it out and bring it with you. If not, bring this information with you:

  • Allergies and what kind of reactions you have had
  • A list of the immunization shots you have had, with the dates you had them
  • A list of medicines you take, including prescription, over-the-counter, and supplements (such as vitamins, minerals, and herbs)
  • If you use contact lenses, dental appliances, orthotics, or have piercings
  • Illnesses you had in the past or have now
  • Injuries you have had, including concussions, broken bones, dislocated bones
  • Hospitalizations or surgeries you have had
  • Times you passed out, felt dizzy, had chest pain, had heat illness, or had trouble breathing during exercise
  • Illnesses in your family, including any deaths related to exercise or sports
  • A history of your weight loss or gain over time

Update Date: 5/10/2013

Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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