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When, where and how to get a sports physical

Summer sports are just around the corner. Do you know how to get a sports physical for your child?

Kids playing sportsMost school athletic programs and camps require a sports physical for kids to participate. Do you know when, where and how to get a sports physical for your child?

An annual physical is recommended for everyone, especially for young athletes. Sports physicals are generally required for student-athletes before their season begins and are sometimes needed before summer camp participation.

Even if your child isn’t engaging in the most physically demanding sport, you can reduce the risk of injury by assessing fitness in a thorough sports physical exam from a primary care provider or pediatrician (consider having your child’s sports physical done at the same time as their annual well-child examination) or by visiting a BJC Medical Group Convenient Care location.

When should I schedule a sports physical?

Schedule your children’s sports physicals at least six weeks before the season begins. This gives sports organizers a chance to review paperwork and approve every athlete for play without delay. If the season starts in the fall, aim to complete the physical health exams by early July. For summer sports camp, the timing will depend on the first day of the activity.

Why are sports physicals necessary?

Most schools and many camps require a pre-participation physical examination for every person playing sports with the organization. This helps coaches get a baseline of physical fitness and be aware of preexisting conditions and potential issues that could affect the health and well-being of that athlete.

It is important to understand that there is a difference between a sports physical and a well-child exam. A sports physical does not take the place of a regular annual exam as it is designated to clear a student athlete for participation in sports.

What do they do at a sports physical?

What happens at a sports physical may differ slightly according to the physician or nurse practitioner, the organization requesting the sports exam and the sport(s) for which the exam is required. However, most sports physicals will include an assessment of overall health, so the examiner can ensure safe participation.

What does a sports physical consist of, specifically? Though some may vary, most will include:

  • Vital statistics – height and weight, blood pressure, pulse, respiration and oxygen saturation

  • Medical history, including medical conditions and family medical history

  • General physical examination of the heart, lungs, abdomen, ears, nose and throat

  • May check strength, flexibility and reflexes

  • Vision examination

Remember, you and the provider will need to fill out your respective sections of the sports physical form for the paperwork to be valid.

What should I bring to a sports physical exam?

If the school, camp or league requiring the physical exam has provided paperwork, take that to the appointment. The medical provider conducting the exam may need to fill out or sign the documents. Also bring a list of questions you wish to ask, as well as the following medical documentation:

  • Immunization/vaccination records

  • All medications your child takes, as well as over-the-counter meds and supplements

  • Primary care provider’s contact information if the exam is performed elsewhere

  • Medical history records

Some organizations may have specific requirements that differ from others, so carefully review any paperwork provided to you.

How long does a sports physical take and how much does a sports physical cost?

Sports physicals do not require a big time investment. Most will take just 20-30 minutes from start to finish, plus minimal time in the waiting room. A sports exam is not a huge financial burden either, with most only requiring a small copay with insurance.

How long is a sports physical good for?

That depends. Some may be valid for the calendar year or two, but the school or organization you are working with may require an exam before each sports season. Clarify the policies before each new sports season.

What if a problem is identified during my child’s sports physical?

Sometimes a sports physical reveals an issue that may require further medical attention. We recommend an immediate follow-up with the child’s regular primary care provider to ensure any necessary treatment can be provided. Prompt care may prevent the issue from interfering with a child’s ability to participate in sports. 

Where can I get sports physical near me?

BJC Medical Group providers offer a sports physical with:

  • Primary care providers 

If you need a primary care provider, use our online search tool to find a doctor or nurse practitioner who is taking new patients. Family medicine providers treat all ages, pediatricians treat infants to 18-year-olds, and internists see patients 18 years and older. Filter by your ZIP code and preferences and schedule the appointment online.

Find Primary Care

  • Providers at Convenient Care locations

There are several locations in St. Louis and surrounding areas where sports physicals can be scheduled any day of the week. Reserve a time for a same-day or next-day appointment.

Find a Convenient Care Location

A BJC primary care provider serves as your health partner, providing preventive health care and treatment for illnesses, injuries and chronic conditions. If you do not have one, find a primary care provider accepting new patients. Learn more.

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