Sports physicals

A sports physical, also known as a pre-participation physical examination (PPE), is a short physical examination that reviews your child’s medical history and confirms your child’s physical readiness to safely participate in sports.

Colorado requires sports physicals for kids

Many states, including Colorado, require sports physicals for kids once a year or before participating in any physical activity at a school, camp or community organization.

Sports physicals don't replace annual checkups

A sports physical isn’t a replacement for a regular annual checkup or physical.

Sports physicals typically relate to your child’s health history to determine what, if anything, within that history could directly prevent them from safely participating in a sport. A sports physical and an annual physical do share many of the same touchpoints, but your child should still see their pediatrician for a separate annual checkup.

What does a sports physical consist of?

In addition to a thorough review of your child’s medical history, there are four basic areas a physician will check when giving your child a sports physical: their vision, vitals, joints and flexibility; they will conduct a short fitness assessment as well.

Eye exam

The doctor gives an eye exam to look for proper vision and to see if your child needs prescription lenses or if his or her current prescription needs to be adjusted.

Vitals check

Taking vital signs is always a standard part of every sports physical. By checking your child’s pulse and blood pressure, we can ensure they’re within normal ranges. At this time, we’ll also record your child’s height and weight, since growth spurts and weight changes can increase the load on joints, muscles, and bones.

Joints and flexibility check

Next, we’ll look at your child’s flexibility, joints, posture, and strength. These tests will help us find any areas that are susceptible to injury and then allow us to suggest any potential exercises and tips to help build a healthier body.

Fitness assessment

The next part of the examination will look at your child’s ears, nose, and throat as well as their abdomen, heart, and lungs. The test will also evaluate their cardiovascular system and will show us if there’s any need to limit any kind of physical activity.

Girl about to kick soccer ball

Your child’s medical history review

In addition to the physical examination, we’ll also conduct a thorough review of your child’s medical history because that information is just as important and relevant as their medical examination.

Kids: be ready to talk about your health history. By telling your doctor about certain items in your medical history, such as conditions like asthma or chest pains, illnesses, or surgeries, they will be better able to diagnose problems and prevent complications in the future.

If you get a form to record your medical history, please fill it out (with the help of your parents) and bring it with you. If not, bring this information with you:

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

Questions and answers (FAQs) about sports physicals

Sports, school and camp physicals are available at select UCHealth urgent care and primary care locations.

Physicals are available with no appointment necessary at select urgent care locations, or by appointment at your UCHealth primary care provider.

Typically a sports physical takes no more than 30 minutes.

A sports physical is good for one year after the examination date.

As with anything involving permission or authorization with school activities, timing of when you turn your sports physical in is important, but most timing varies depending on the sport, state, or school district. Typically, schools require that your son or daughter’s sports physical be completed and turned in prior to the start of the first practice.

For males, the doctor will examine the genitals as a part of the physical examination, including the penis and testicles. The doctor may ask the teenager to cough while examining the scrotum.

While they might not directly test for drugs during your sports physical, your provider will likely ask you questions about your use of drugs, alcohol, and/or supplements.

Yes. According to CHSAA’s (Colorado High School Activities Association) bylaws, a Doctor of Chiropractic may perform a pre-participation sports physical for the high school and middle school athlete. The CCA offers courses to become certified to perform pre-participation sports physical examinations.

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