What is a sports physical?
A sports physical, or a pre-participation physical examination (PPE), is a routine test that a licensed physician conducts to determine whether a patient is healthy enough to safely participate in an organized sport or vigorous physical activity. Many people also get sports physicals if they’re planning on starting a new exercise routine.
Sports physicals have a different approach and test different things than your annual physical exam.
A sports physical is not a replacement for an annual physical, and an annual physical should not be substituted for a sports physical.
Do I need a sports physical?
A sports physical is a necessary prerequisite for the participation in any school-sanctioned sport in most states, and many recreational and club sports leagues also require a successful sports physical.
A sports physical needs to be completed before the first day of participation in your desired activity. However, you can’t get your sports physical too soon before you begin participation, since you need to make sure that your results are still current.
Results typically last one calendar year, but this sometimes varies from state to state and school to school, with some schools or programs requiring a new physical before each sports season. Check with your local institution to be sure your results will be valid.
What happens during a sports physical?
You’ll be physically active during your sports physical, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes and clothing. The whole exam consists of four parts that typically take about 30 minutes to complete.
During the first part, Dr. Mope checks your vitals, such as your blood pressure and pulse. She’ll also log your height and weight in order to track it and compare to your other sports physicals. Sudden growth spurts or drastic changes in weight can affect your muscles, joints, and bones, as well as your ability to safely participate in your sport.
The second part of your physical is an eye exam, where Dr. Mope determines whether you need prescription lenses or an update to your lens prescription to participate in your sport.
The third part is a review of your medical history, and Dr. Mope asks you questions about any recent illnesses, surgeries, or conditions like asthma or chest pains.
The final part of your physical is a fitness check. Dr. Mope does a thorough assessment of your heart, lungs, and abdomen to determine whether or not you have any physical limitations that might affect your safety when you play your sport. She’ll also check your joints and flexibility to determine whether you might be prone to any particular injuries.
What if I have a health issue discovered during the sports physical?
If a health issue is identified during the sports physical, the healthcare provider will recommend appropriate treatment or further evaluation. Depending on the severity of the issue, you may need to address it before being cleared to participate in sports.