What Happens At A Sports Physical? Find Out Now!

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As an athlete, you know that preparing for your sport season involves more than just practicing and training. To ensure that you are physically ready to participate in your sport, you will need to undergo a sports physical.

A sports physical is an examination conducted by a medical professional to assess your overall health and any potential risk factors that may affect your performance or put you in danger during sports activities. During this exam, the doctor will evaluate various aspects of your health, including your heart rate, blood pressure, vision, hearing, lung function, and musculoskeletal system.

“Your physician will also review your medical history and ask you questions about prior injuries, chronic illnesses, medications, and family health history to ensure that you do not have any underlying conditions that could impact your ability to play sports.”

Knowing what to expect from a sports physical can help ease any anxiety you might feel before your appointment. In this article, we’ll outline each step of the process and provide helpful tips on how to prepare for your sports physical so you can hit the ground running once your season begins.

Medical History Review

A sports physical is a checkup that assesses an athlete’s health and fitness levels before they start participating in sports. One of the most important parts of this process is reviewing the athlete’s medical history. This helps identify any pre-existing conditions that could affect their ability to participate or increase their risk for certain injuries.

Patient Information

The first step of a medical history review during a sports physical involves gathering basic patient information, such as name, age, height, weight, and gender. The doctor may also ask about current symptoms, previous injuries, hospitalizations, surgeries, and vaccinations. Additionally, they might inquire about the athlete’s daily activities and exercise habits outside of sports.

This information can help the physician understand the patient’s overall health status and better tailor the subsequent examination accordingly. It can also assist in identifying any underlying conditions that could lead to complications or require special precautions during training and competitions.

Medical Conditions

The next part of the medical history review focuses on the athlete’s current medical conditions. The physician will typically ask questions to understand the nature and severity of any chronic illnesses, such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, or epilepsy. They might also screen for mental health issues like depression or anxiety to ensure they are addressed appropriately.

If an athlete has a medical condition that requires ongoing treatment or medication, the physician may consult with their primary healthcare provider to get more detailed information about the management plan. This collaboration can be crucial in ensuring safe participation in athletic activities while minimizing the risks associated with any underlying conditions.

Medications and Allergies

In addition to assessing medical conditions, the physician will also collect information on any medications or supplements the athlete is taking, including dosages and frequencies. It is essential to be aware of these details to evaluate whether a particular medicine or supplement could affect the athlete’s performance, increase their risk for side effects, or interact with other drugs.

The doctor will also ask about any allergies the athlete may have. This includes not only typical allergens like pollen or certain foods but also any previous adverse reactions to medications and vaccines. Knowing this information can help prevent safety issues during treatment or emergency situations if an allergic reaction occurs.

Family Medical History

Finally, the physician will inquire about the athlete’s family medical history. This step aims to identify any genetic predispositions that could impact the athlete’s health in the future. For instance, knowing that there is a family history of heart disease or cancer can alert the physician to consider early screening tests or recommend lifestyle modifications to mitigate potential risks.

Conducting a thorough medical history review during a sports physical is crucial to ensure safe athletic participation. It helps physicians make informed decisions and customized recommendations for individual athletes while minimizing the risk of injury or complications due to undisclosed pre-existing conditions or underlying illnesses.

Vital Signs Assessment

A sports physical is a comprehensive medical examination that checks an athlete’s overall health and fitness levels. One of the critical components of a sports physical is the vital signs assessment, where your doctor will measure and record various physiological parameters to ensure that you are in good health for athletic activities.

Blood Pressure

During a sports physical, your healthcare professional will measure your blood pressure using a sphygmomanometer. Blood pressure measurements indicate how well your cardiovascular system is functioning. High blood pressure can increase the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, or other complications if left untreated. Generally speaking, normal blood pressure readings should be less than 120 mm Hg systolic (the top number) and less than 80 mmHg diastolic (bottom number).

Abnormal blood pressure results may trigger additional diagnostic testing or require further interventions before participating in any sports activity. Therefore, maintaining healthy blood pressure levels is crucial to ensuring optimal performance and safety during gameplay.

Heart Rate

Your resting heart rate indicates the number of times your heart beats per minute while at rest. During your sports physical, your doctor checks your pulse in several areas like your wrist, neck, or ankles to calculate your heart rate. According to the American Heart Association, the average adult heart rate ranges from 60-100 beats per minute.

The heart rate varies depending on numerous factors such as age, gender, level of fitness, stress level, etc., which has implications concerning participation in various sports. An elevated heart rate may indicate underlying problems, including cardiac issues, infections, or over-exertion and needs further evaluation by qualified physicians

Respiratory Rate

Respiratory rate refers to the number of breaths you take per minute. The average respiratory rate in adults at rest is 12-16 breaths per minute. During a sports physical, your physician will observe how fast or shallow your breathing is as this can impact the amount of oxygen reaching your blood vessels and muscles.

Your healthcare provider may ask questions about any difficulty breathing during exercise or if you have a history of asthma or other respiratory issues. If necessary, supplemental testing may be recommended, such as lung capacity measurements through spirometry to assess breathing function.


Undoubtedly, fever raises concerns for underlying conditions that impair safe training and gameplay. Consequently, measuring body temperature is another critical component of the vital signs assessment. This involves the use of a thermometer to record core body temperature orally, rectally or by ear canal means.

Typically, the normal oral temperature range varies between 97.6°F (36.4°C) to 99.6°F (37.6°C), but readings outside these ranges might compel additional diagnostic assessments before clearing athletes for competitions. Extreme temperatures may imply an increased potential for heat stroke, hypothermia, infectious illness, over-exertion, dehydration among others. Therefore, maintaining optimal body temperature remains pivotal when considering athletic performance and safety.

“Sports Physical exams are critical because they help flag health problems that could prevent you from participating in sport safely.”

A Sports Physical makes sure you are fit to participate fully in sports,” says Dr. Sosin, an adolescent medicine specialist. “We want to find anything that really might limit what you’re able to do on the field, we also listen carefully to youth athletes – their goals, plans, and dreams – so we can best support them while keeping them healthy and safe”

Physical Examination

A sports physical is a medical examination that ensures an athlete is healthy enough to participate in physical activities. During this exam, the doctor will check the athlete’s overall health and identify any potential risks for injury or illness. The exam generally lasts between 30-60 minutes and consists of several components.

Head and Neck

The physician will examine the athlete’s head and neck to ensure there are no signs of trauma or underlying medical conditions. They may take the athlete’s blood pressure, assess their vision and hearing, and evaluate their balance and coordination.

According to Dr. Brian Krabak, director of the Sports Medicine Fellowship Program at the University of Washington Medical Center, “An important part of the screening includes a concussion evaluation. This involves assessing whether a student-athlete has suffered one or more concussions in the past.”

“It only takes one incidence of an unrecognized concussion to have catastrophic consequences,” – Dr. Brian Krabak

Abdomen and Pelvis

The physician will also examine the athlete’s abdomen and pelvis area thoroughly. They will look for hernias, enlarged organs, and abnormal masses. Additionally, they will evaluate the individual’s pubertal development to ensure that it is consistent with their age group.

Injuries to the groin can affect athletes of all ages and levels, but they are common in male athletes competing in contact sports such as football, soccer, basketball, and hockey. According to Steven Zayas, MD, assistant professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine, “Groin strains should be treated early and aggressively to avoid chronic pain, hip impingement issues, labral injuries, and athletic pubalgia.”

“If you’re going to err, you want to err on the side of saying no to athletes who might have something wrong with them until further evaluation,” – Steven Zayas, MD

After completion of the exam, the physician evaluates and shares any findings. The final report is shared with the athlete’s parents or guardians as well as their coach. If a concern arises from the physical examination, the athlete may receive treatment or need to see a specialist for further testing before being eligible to compete in sports.

A sports physical can help ensure an athlete’s overall health and prevent serious injuries while playing sports. Schedule your next sports physical with a licensed medical provider today!

Cardiovascular Screening

A sports physical is a medical examination performed before you participate in any activity or sport. It is always advisable to start with assessing your cardiovascular health because it’s the first step to ensuring good overall health and minimizing the risk of sudden death from heart-related issues.

The following are some of the cardiovascular screening tests commonly conducted during a sports physical:

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

An ECG, also known as an electrocardiograph test, is a non-invasive diagnostic test that assesses the electrical activity of your heart. The test takes about five minutes, and electrodes are placed on your chest, arms, and legs to record these electrical signals. These tracings will then be analyzed by a doctor for signs of arrhythmias, abnormal rhythms which can cause the heart to beat too fast or slow. This test gives insight into abnormalities including structural defects like a thickened wall or coronary artery disease.

“An EKG should become part of routine children’s physicals for those involved in competitive sports,” says cardiologist Dr. David Fishbein at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. “In particular, we recommend all athletes get one if there’s been prior family history of sudden cardiac death.”


An echocardiogram – also called an “echo” – is another important tool used to check your heart’s condition. Like the ECG, this test is non-invasive and quick. You lie flat while a technician uses sound waves to create images of the heart muscle. During the echo, the technician will look for issues such as enlarged chambers of the heart, malformations, blood clots, or fluid buildup around the organ. Although more expensive than an ECG, an echocardiogram provides more information about potential heart defects.

“Routine echocardiograms are an expensive and unwarranted intervention for most kids’ sports physicals,” says Dr. Ameya Kulkarni, instructor in pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. “However, they’re commonplace among pediatric cardiologists because they drive revenue.”

Both tests should be considered during a sports physical as they provide valuable insights into the health of your heart. It is important to note that if any irregularities show up on either test, follow-up appointments with a specialist may be necessary.

Orthopedic Evaluation

During a sports physical, one of the most important evaluations that will be conducted is the orthopedic evaluation. This part of the exam focuses on assessing your musculoskeletal system and identifying any issues or potential problems related to bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, or joints.

Range of Motion

The first component of the orthopedic evaluation is assessing range of motion. This involves measuring how well you can move each joint in your body through its full range of motion. The doctor may ask you to perform various movements, such as rotating your arm or lifting your leg, while they observe and take notes. They may also test for flexibility by asking you to touch your toes or do other stretches.

If any restrictions or limitations are found, the doctor will note this in your medical records and may recommend further testing or treatment, depending on the severity of the issue.

“Maintaining adequate range of motion is essential for preventing injury and ensuring optimal performance in athletes.” -Dr. Michael Khazzam, MD, Sports Medicine Specialist

Strength and Flexibility

In addition to range of motion, the strength and flexibility of individual muscle groups will also be evaluated. During this portion of the exam, the doctor may have you perform specific exercises that target certain muscles, or they may use specialized equipment to measure force and resistance during movement.

It’s important to remember that every sport requires different levels of strength and flexibility. For example, a basketball player would need strong legs, hips, and core muscles to jump high and change directions quickly, whereas a tennis player might require strong arms and shoulders to serve and hit backhands with power. The doctor will take these unique needs into account when evaluating your overall condition.

“Proper strength and flexibility training can not only prevent injuries but also improve athletic performance in athletes of all ages.” -Dr. Manish Kapadia, Orthopedic Surgeon

The orthopedic evaluation is a crucial component of any sports physical. By assessing range of motion, strength, and flexibility, doctors can identify potential issues before they become serious problems and work with athletes to develop personalized treatment plans that will help them stay healthy and perform at their best.

Clearance and Recommendations

Medical Clearance Status

A sports physical exam is an important part of overall healthcare for young athletes. This exam helps to evaluate the health of the athlete, identify any potential risk factors for injuries, and provide recommendations for prevention and treatment.

The medical clearance status involves different aspects such as screening for cardiovascular problems or detecting early injury signs that can affect future performance. Medical professionals will check the following during a sports physical:

  • Blood pressure
  • Height and weight measurements
  • Vision and hearing screening tests
  • Taken a review of the patient’s full medical history including current medications or allergies
  • Evaluating heart, lung, stomach, feet, ears, nose, throat, and neurological functions like coordination in order to obtain baseline data on these bodily systems.

Treatment and Follow-up Recommendations

If there are areas of concern identified during the examination, then further evaluation or additional testing may need to be performed before clearing the athlete for participation. For example if they want to ensure one doesn’t have asthma, they’ll schedule follow-up appointments with an appropriate specialist to manage their condition. If orthopedic concerns arise, rehabilitation and braces may also be used to help improve recovery time.

Athletes will receive individualized care plans tailored towards addressing each athlete’s specific health needs based upon results from screenings in order to maintain optimal wellness.

Activity and Exercise Recommendations

Sports exams also screen for fitness levels so that personalized exercise recommendations can be given while lowering chances for both the occurrence and recurrence of injuries. Doctors look at joint flexibility, core stability, balance, strength, vision, and proprioception in order to help prevent certain types of injuries that may occur while playing sports. One example is plyometric exercises which are used to improve the power and strength of one’s leg muscles, leading to improved lower body stability and explosiveness needed to make those big plays on the field.

Patients will be taught about injury prevention such as what appropriate stretching techniques for flexibility or foam rolling work best for their bodies before they engage in activity both at home and in competition. Additionally, athletes who have been inactive or found to have decreased fitness levels may benefit from structured programs aimed towards overall health promotion ensuring any limitations transform into building blocks towards increased performance on the court or field.

“Taking care of your body is critical in maximizing athletic potential” – Michael Porter Jr.

The end goal is to promote health instead of just treating disease by setting positive behavior patterns in motion through nutritional recommendations, tailor-made conditioning workouts, and prompt recovery so that when it’s time for the next season, optimum physical health can be achieved. A healthy athlete equals a successful athlete!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a sports physical?

A sports physical is a medical exam that evaluates an individual’s overall health and physical abilities to participate in sports. It includes a thorough review of medical history and a physical examination to assess the individual’s fitness level. The exam is typically required before participating in organized sports, and it helps identify any potential health risks that could affect the individual’s performance.

Why are sports physicals necessary?

Sports physicals are necessary to ensure the safety of individuals participating in sports. They help identify any underlying medical conditions or injuries that could put the individual at risk during physical activity. The exam also provides an opportunity to discuss any concerns or questions with a healthcare provider and obtain recommendations for improving overall health and fitness.

What happens during a sports physical?

During a sports physical, a healthcare provider will review the individual’s medical history, including any past injuries or medical conditions. The provider will then perform a physical examination that includes checking vital signs, assessing joint flexibility and strength, and evaluating the individual’s cardiovascular health. The exam may also involve vision and hearing tests and discussion of nutrition and hydration.

What do doctors check during a sports physical?

Doctors check a variety of factors during a sports physical, including the individual’s medical history, cardiovascular health, joint mobility and strength, and overall physical fitness. They may also evaluate vision and hearing, as well as discuss nutrition and hydration. Doctors may also recommend additional testing, such as blood work or imaging, if there are any concerns related to the individual’s health or fitness.

What if something is found during a sports physical?

If something is found during a sports physical, such as a medical condition or injury, the healthcare provider will make recommendations for treatment or further evaluation. In some cases, the individual may need to be cleared by a specialist before participating in sports. It is important to address any health concerns before participating in physical activity to prevent further injury or harm.

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