Sports physicals: Are they important?

FEATURE – There is a big difference between a quick “gotta have the paper signed, line the kids up in the school gym” sports physical and a pre-participation preventive exam in your doctor‘s office. A physician trained in the nuances of doing a comprehensive exam is much more likely to find and treat health concerns important to a student athlete. I advocate that parents take the opportunity, when the time comes, to have a complete physical done for their child.

One benefit of Obamacare is that insurances are required to cover the full cost of a preventive examination once a year. It is not often that a family physician or pediatrician gets the opportunity to counsel growing young men and women regarding preventive issues. It is an important time to discuss their concerns about their developing bodies, healthy habits and immunizations that might further protect them, as well as do an in-depth review of past health problems and symptoms that could suggest impending issues. In the office, weight and height will be graphed on a growth chart and compared with others their age to assess appropriate development.

In order to make the most of an office exam, I encourage parents to fill out a pre-participation health history so it can be reviewed before the exam and concerns can be investigated further. An accurate history can bring out the majority of potential concerns for an athlete. I am seeing an increase in the number of student athletes using performance-enhancing substances, many of which are causing significant harm. I try to take a non-judgmental approach and encourage open dialogue, so we can discuss the risks and benefits of such.

In an office setting, a physician is also able to treat and prescribe medications for ongoing health issues. Additionally, it is a chance to discuss healthy training strategies and concerns for young ladies, such as the “female athlete triad” of disordered eating, amenorrhea and osteoporosis. When given the chance, some youth will open up about health concerns they have. They certainly won’t feel comfortable doing this with all their peers waiting in line outside the gym door.

In short, a sports physical is like most things in life: The more you put into it, the more you will get out of it. So, if in a rush your child got the “assembly line exam,” it would still be a good idea to come in for a more comprehensive preventive examination with your primary care provider. It is the one thing all insurances will pay for without meeting your deductible.

Dr. Scott Barton
Dr. Scott Barton

Written by Dr. Scott Barton for St. George Health and Wellness magazine and St. George News.

Barton, an M.D., has practiced comprehensive family care with a focus on obstetrics and pediatrics at the St. George Clinic for the past 13 years. He is currently accepting new patients and can be reached at 435-674-6067.

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