It’s (sports) physical time

What parents should know about sports physicalsAll high school and middle school athletes in the state of Michigan are required to have a sports physical each year. While some schools and organizations offer mass sports physical events, a sports physical is something that is easily incorporated into your child’s annual checkup with his or her healthcare provider. Seeing the same healthcare provider annually creates a sense of continuity and allows you, your child and your healthcare provider to develop a strong relationship.

The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health recently conducted a national survey on parents’ thoughts about sports physicals. The poll found that the vast majority, 74 percent, of children get their physical from their regular healthcare provider and 90 percent agreed that a sports physical is not a substitute for regular check-ups.

In addition to the standard elements of a sports physical, an annual well-child checkup includes a more in-depth examination and discussion of your child’s overall health. We discuss nutrition, school performance, sleep habits, high-risk behaviors and living an overall healthy lifestyle. Seeing the same healthcare provider each year can allow us to know your child better and notice small changes that may need follow-up. We also make sure your child is current on all his or her vaccinations.

Sports physicals conducted in a mass setting, such as those sometimes offered in a high school gym or cafeteria, don’t allow for continuity of care and one-on-one interaction with the student and healthcare provider. The setting is often noisy and not private, which can make a student reluctant to mention any health concerns he or she may have. We’ve also observed that it can be a challenge to get an accurate blood pressure reading and evaluation during these events. Unlike in adults, the normal range for blood pressure in teenagers depends on their age, gender, and height. Without access to a chart that outlines the normal ranges for a specific individual, a high or low blood pressure reading may be missed.

The risk for concussion is an important topic for all athletes and their parents. The State of Michigan now requires that all athletes and parents receive information from the CDC’s Heads Up: Concussion in Youth Sports initiative. It’s important to know that once an athlete has had one concussion, he or she has an increased risk of suffering a future concussion that can be caused by a smaller blow to the head. Recovery for subsequent concussions can take longer and may be incomplete as well. Those are important topics we discuss in-depth with student athletes during their check-ups.

The National Poll also showed that 43 percent of parents felt it was very important to do a brain scan on their child if he or she had a prior concussion. Because there is a high dose of radiation in conducting a head CT scan, that’s not something we recommend. There are many other tools to diagnose a concussion and monitor a student’s recovery.

If your child participates in sports, now is the time to schedule his or her annual check-up. Your healthcare provider can complete all the necessary Michigan sports physical forms and conduct a thorough annual exam.

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Kelly Orringer, MD, Pediatrician, Ann ArborKelly Orringer, MD, received her undergraduate degree in anthropology from Harvard College and her medical degree from Harvard Medical School. She completed her residency and general pediatric fellowship training at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Her clinical interests include breastfeeding, obesity and sports injuries. In her spare time, she enjoys, running, reading, and spending time with her husband, two children, and three dogs. Dr. Orringer sees patients at the Briarwood Center for Women, Children and Young Adults.

best children's hospitalUniversity of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine. In December 2011, the hospital opened our new 12-story, state-of-the-art facility offering cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.