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Healthy Living Blog

Why the Sports Pre-Participation Exam is So Important


sports pre-participation examParticipating in sports in a great way to learn sportsmanship, the value of teamwork and camaraderie. It’s also a great way to stay active and healthy.

But before students in middle school, high school and college can participate in a sport, they must undergo a pre-participation physical exam.

Here’s why the pre-participation exam is so important for your student athlete and their school.

It Identifies Medical Conditions That Could Put the Athlete at Risk

One way to identify an athlete’s conditions or risk for conditions is to get the pre-participation exam, which begins with a complete health history. The physician asks questions to detect life-threatening conditions, including history of fainting, chest pain, high blood pressure and unexplained shortness of breath. Other questions help determine whether the athlete has experienced symptoms associated with a head injury, including dizziness, confusion, loss of consciousness and nausea. If the athlete has experienced any of these issues, they should be referred to a cardiologist or neurologist for further testing.

A physical exam is performed, so a physician can verify and rule out any conditions that may impair an athlete from participating in sports. While the exam is thorough, particular attention is paid to heart health and proper function, and orthopaedic health.

Sudden death among athletes is commonly linked to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition where the walls of the ventricles thicken and blood flow is constricted. During the exam, an emphasis is also placed on those who have experienced sports-related head injuries in the past.

It Aids in Maintaining Health and Safety of the Athlete

Should an athlete have a health condition that could impair their ability to participate, the physician, athlete and parents discuss options during the exam. Referrals can be made to physical therapists and athletic trainers for rehabilitation to prevent further damage to an area that has been previously injured.

If any at-risk behaviors are detected — such as potential drug or alcohol abuse — the athlete can speak with the physician and learn about ways to seek help. Requiring a physical every year to participate in sports helps athletes and their parents to stay on top of health issues and detect new issues earlier.

It Educates Parents and Athletes on Sports-Related Health Issues

Getting screened for potential sports-related health issues can shed light on conditions parents and athletes would not have been aware of otherwise. Knowing the conditions most likely to affect athletes and symptoms to watch out for can help with earlier detection and treatment.

While some sports-related health issues happen unexpectedly during a game or practice (such as tearing the ACL), being educated on athletic injuries can help students take preventive measures. This type of prevention now can help reduce long-term effects later.

It Helps the School Meet Legal and Insurance Requirements

School administrations are required by their state to ensure all students participating in competitive sports have been examined by a physician. They must keep a record on file of the exam results, as the athlete must be “cleared” by the physician that they are in fact healthy enough to participate. Not having this information on hand could be a liability to the school in the event a student is injured or found to have an undetected health condition agitated by sports.

Being aware of student health issues establishes transparency among the school, the athlete and the physician.

In some cases, schools ask physicians to perform mass screenings of athletes at the school. In others, it is the responsibility of the parents to see to it that their student athlete is examined by a physician, usually their family physician. When exams are conducted at the school, parents must grant written permission and be informed of abnormal results.

To get your student athlete’s annual sports pre-participation exam scheduled, contact us today.

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