A sports physical exam, also known as a preparticipation physical examination (PPE), is a thorough medical examination that determines whether or not it is safe for an athlete to participate in a particular sport. The purpose of a PPE is to prevent as many injuries and medical emergencies on the court or playing field as possible Sports physicals are often required for children and teens before they are allowed to join a team sport and are usually repeated before each season. PPEs are required by most state governments as well.
It is recommended that participants undergo sport physicals at least 6 weeks before the activity begins so there will be ample time if precautions or preparations are necessary.
The first part of a sports physical involves the taking of a medical history. This is extremely important in terms of protecting the participant from possible danger during strenuous activity. The medical history includes information concerning:
- Illnesses of family members
- Chronic past disease conditions of the participant
- Present health conditions
- Prior hospitalizations or surgeries
- Allergies, especially severe ones
- Past musculoskeletal injuries or concussions
- History of chest pain, breathing difficulties
- History of dizziness or fainting
- Medications (prescribed, OTC or supplemental)
This oral history is extremely important because awareness of possible underlying conditions, such as asthma or diabetes, may result in the physician prescribing particular treatments or recommending certain precautions, prior to exercise. It may also result in the physician prescribing medications for use if symptoms occur during exercise. In rare instances, the medical examination will make clear that participation in a particular sport is not recommended because of serious health risks.
This examination is designed to detect any irregularities in the student's physical condition that may be warning signs of a medical disorder. By checking vital signs and evaluating general health, the doctor can be confident in approving sports participation. During a sports physical, the doctor checks and records:
- Height and weight
- Pulse and blood pressure
- Visual acuity and eye health
- Ear, nose and throat condition
- Heart, lungs and and bowel function
- Posture, muscular strength, flexibility
During some physical examinations, an electrocardiogram (EKG) may be administered to further evaluate heart function or other diagnostic tests may be recommended.