Why Sports Physicals Are So Important for Student Health 

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It is back-to-school time for Georgia families, which means new schedules, school supplies, and the excitement of a new year. With the demands of a new school year, it can be easy to forget the importance of sports physicals for student athletes. Under Georgia law, students are required to have a sports physical, also known as a preparticipation physical evaluation, before competing in a school sport. A PPE lets students know if it’s safe for them to participate in a certain sport and can also help them address health problems that could negatively impact their performance or increase their chances of getting hurt.

It’s recommended that athletes schedule these exams at least six weeks prior to the start of their sport season. If their doctor discovers a health issue, this provides enough time for additional tests or treatment. Waiting until the last minute could result in the student not being eligible to participate in their sport.

Crs23 033617 10 Ga Trend Image 1During a PPE, the physician will ask about a student’s medical history, which could include questions about family history, chronic illness such as diabetes, medication, allergies, previous injuries or hospitalizations. The second part of the visit is the physical exam, which is tailored to the specific sport the student will be participating in. The physician will check height, weight, blood pressure, heart and lungs, as well as examine muscles and joints.

In order for students to participate in athletics in Georgia schools they must complete a PPE, but there are many other reasons why it’s important for families to schedule a sports physical with their child’s physician.

  1. Detects underlying conditions

A sports physical can help doctors detect any underlying conditions that could be exacerbated by physical activity. For example, because of the devastating and often fatal nature of sudden cardiac arrest in young athletes, these cases have been discussed in communities and in the national media spotlight. Although this condition is rare, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports about 2,000 young, seemingly healthy Americans die each year of sudden cardiac arrest.

However, there are other underlying conditions that are not discussed as often, such as high blood pressure or hernias, that PPEs can help detect to help ensure students are healthy enough for strenuous physical activity.

  1. Checks current health status for a particular sport

Georgia requires PPEs for student athletes of all sports including basketball, football, cheer, track and tennis, to name a few. During the exam, the physician will pay special attention to areas of the body used the most for each sport. For example, the physician will evaluate the knees of a track athlete and the shoulders of a baseball player to help ensure each part is in good physical condition and prepared for the potential overuse that can occur in that particular sport.

  1. Monitors medical issues

If a medical complication or issue is discovered during the PPE, the physician may run additional tests and schedule a follow-up appointment with the student. A medical issue does not necessarily mean the student will be disqualified from participating in sports, but it will require an ongoing relationship with the physician to monitor the situation with the goal of keeping the athlete healthy and safe.

  1. Provides guidance on how to stay healthy

Best case scenario, the student is found to be healthy and prepared to participate in their sport or sports of choice. During the visit, the physician can provide guidelines on how to stay safe and injury-free while playing sports. They may recommend mobility exercises to reduce the risk of injury or provide recommendations for nutrition, hydration and other tips for recovery.

Although there are many benefits to sports physicals, they do not replace a child’s annual well visit. While the PPE focuses on determining if a child is healthy enough to participate in a particular sport, the well visit provides a more comprehensive understanding of the child’s overall health including immunizations and developmental milestones.

CareSource supports families with sports physicals through our mobile unit, Wellness on Wheels, which brings physicians into communities to provide onsite medical care. WOW will be providing onsite care and sports physicals at the following locations throughout September:

  • September 6 and September 13, 8:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. at Cobb County Head Start
  • September 7 and September 12, 8:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. at Butler Center Hall County
  • September 19, 8:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. at Tallatoona Head Start Paulding
  • September 30, 8:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. at Head Start and Wade Walker YMCA

Prior to the child’s PPE, parents and guardians can download the official form from the Georgia High School Association.

We are committed to ensuring a healthy and productive beginning to the new school year for every Georgia student—both inside and outside of the classroom.

Dr. Seema Csukas, chief medical officer for CareSource Georgia. CareSource is a nonprofit, nationally recognized managed care organization with over 2.3 million members and administers one of the largest Medicaid managed care plans in the U.S. As a mission-driven organization, CareSource is transforming health care with innovative programs that address the social determinants of health, health equity and access to care.

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