Sports physicals for kids, the easy way

June 6, 2019
Young children celebrate on the soccer field with a chest bump in this photo.
A well-child visit covers a range of topics important to a child’s overall health. Photo: Getty Images

If your child’s required sports physical surprises you each year and sends you to the doctor’s office in a mad dash, you might want to consider an annual well-child visit.

As we transition from summer to fall, a well-child visit can incorporate a sports or camp physical and can be scheduled any time of the year. Not only is it covered by insurance, but it also offers a more comprehensive view on your child’s health.

Sports physicals are also available with or without an appointment at select urgent care locations throughout Colorado.

“I think there’s some confusion about what a sports physical is and what a well-child visit is,” said Dr. Michelle Jimerson, a family physician in Steamboat Springs and a member of the medical staff at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. “For us, they’re the same visit, because we take care of the whole child regardless.

“We think it’s important that every child has an annual well-child visit, and as part of that, we go over any risks for sports. Parents of children without insurance shouldn’t hesitate to be seen by a doctor: all children can get health care coverage through Medicaid, and a doctor’s office can assist with that.”

A well-child visit can take place any time of year, and as long as there aren’t major changes such as a broken arm or recent health issue, a physician can fill out required forms as needed. Parents don’t have to rush a child in for a sports physical at the beginning of the school year or right before the holidays, but can choose a time that works best for the family.

“Lots of times parents call saying, ‘My kids are starting on a sports team tomorrow, and I didn’t realize they needed a sports physical,’” Jimerson said. “But if your child has already had an annual well-child visit, and we know his or her history, we can sign the form. It takes a lot of stress out of it.”

Even more importantly, a well-child visit covers a range of topics important to a child’s overall health. Jimerson will also review nutrition, screen time, use of sugary drinks, wearing seat belts and using booster seats, vision and hearing issues, growth curves, vaccinations and screenings for depression and anxiety.

“All of these things are covered that can really affect their health throughout their lives,” Jimerson said. “We want to help create a healthy base for these kids so they can be as successful as possible.”

For children in middle school and up, issues such as eating disorders, sexual activity and use of alcohol, drugs or tobacco can be covered.

“It’s nice to have a relationship so they can come to us and say, ‘I am feeling kind of depressed,’ or ‘I am struggling,’” Jimerson said. “Even in the best situations, issues come up and kids sometimes need that extra support.”

And there’s a reason that well-child visits are annual. Besides being easier to remember – after all, you’re less likely to miss an appointment if it’s every year around your child’s birthday – children change a lot over a year.

“Especially with kids, a year is a long time,” Jimerson said. “Things change so quickly. It’s good to make sure nothing new has come up such as a skin condition or allergy. We check in on their growth rates, nutrition, puberty, whether they switched schools or their parents went through a divorce and if they have any concerns.”

When your child is seen each year, it helps your child develop a positive relationship with their medical provider.

“It’s nice to develop that rapport and to make sure they’re not afraid of us because they only see us for sick visits,” Jimerson said. “We’re here to help them be healthy and happy, and a regular checkup is a good way to help achieve that.”

Contact your child’s physician to confirm whether a sports physical is included in a well-child visit.

This article first appeared in the Steamboat Pilot & Today.

About the author

Susan Cunningham lives in the Colorado Rocky Mountains with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys science nearly as much as writing: she’s traveled to the bottom of the ocean via submarine to observe life at hydrothermal vents, camped out on an island of birds to study tern behavior, and now spends time in an office writing and analyzing data. She blogs about writing and science at