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Plan Now for the Sports Season Ahead

Last updated: July 10, 2023

We want to ensure that students are not just physically healthy, but also mentally and emotionally well.

Dr. Jorge Darwich, Pediatrician, ThedaCare Physicians Pediatrics-Appleton and -Neenah

We may still be in the thick of summer, but the fall sports season is just around the corner. To guarantee your athlete can participate in their sport without delay, it’s best to schedule early for necessary sports physicals and wellness visits.

These exams are crucial to ensure that students are cleared for participation in sports before the fall season. They can also help address any health concerns before the start of the new school year.  

Sports physicals and wellness visits are different, but they’re both critical for a child’s well-being. It’s important to understand the differences between the two types of exams.

Children’s Wellness Visits

A wellness visit is a comprehensive exam that assesses a child’s overall health and development. A sports physical is a more targeted exam focused on evaluating a child’s readiness to participate in athletic activities, says Dr. Jorge Darwich, a Pediatrician at ThedaCare Physicians Pediatrics-Appleton and -Neenah.

During a wellness visit, a physician or advanced practice clinician will assess a child’s growth and development, discuss any concerns with the parents or child, and provide immunizations and preventive care services as needed. This visit allows for extra time with the family and the provider to discuss overall health, nutrition, sleep, and emotional well-being.

Providers also watch for mental health concerns such as depression or anxiety.

“We want to ensure that students are not just physically healthy, but also mentally and emotionally well,” Dr. Darwich says. “Then we will provide any necessary support or referrals. These visits provide an opportunity to catch issues early and ensure children are on track for healthy development.”

Wellness visits can incorporate a sports physical, but sports physicals are not a replacement for wellness visits. It’s important for kids to stay up to date on routine care such as immunizations through wellness visits.

A sports physical and wellness visit can be performed together in some cases. In fact, combining the two visits can provide a comprehensive assessment of a child’s overall health and their readiness to participate in sports.

“We can evaluate the child’s overall health and provide preventive care services, all while ensuring they are cleared to play sports safely,” Dr. Darwich says.

If a child is up to date on their wellness visits, providers may be able to complete a sports physical form without an additional visit. Contact your child’s provider via MyThedaCare to inquire.

Sports Physicals

“Sports physicals help ensure that children are healthy and prepared for the upcoming school year, particularly for those planning to participate in fall sports,” says Dr. Doug Connor, a Sports Medicine Physician with ThedaCare Orthopedic Care. “They also offer an opportunity for providers to connect with student athletes to see how they are feeling when they are well and not experiencing an injury.”

Sports physicals assess a child’s readiness to participate in sports safely. It’s important to schedule these appointments early in the summer to give time for any necessary treatment and recovery before the start of the sports season, Dr. Connor says.

According to the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, the organization that oversees high school athletics, student athletes must have a physical examination, signed by a licensed provider, every other school year. To confirm whether your student is up to date, contact your school’s athletic office.

At a sports physical, the provider will review the student’s medical history, take vital signs, and perform a physical exam. They will also assess the student’s cardiovascular and respiratory health and musculoskeletal system.

“We want to identify any underlying medical conditions that may impact a child’s ability to participate in sports safely,” Dr. Connor says. “We can manage and treat conditions such as asthma, heart disease, or joint pain before the start of the sports season.”

Exam Checklist

To save time and effort, come to your child’s wellness visit or sports physical prepared.

  • Complete all forms and questionnaires before arriving at the scheduled appointment.
  • Schedule extra time in your day to be present at the appointment with a minor child.
  • Write down any questions you want to ask.
  • Print and bring the appropriate WIAA form for sports physicals.
  • Have copies of needed records or signed paperwork available as a reference.
Tags: children’s wellness visits high school sports sports physicals vaccines

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