Saturday, May 11, 2013

It's [Sports, School, Camp, Yearly] Physical Time!

It's that time of year when school aged children and teens need physicals for school or camp entry or to participate in sports. Parents often want to work in a last minute "quick physical" for a form to be signed before a sport season starts or a child goes to a new school. Plan ahead so you can get an appointment at your preferred time!

Unfortunately some parents calling at the last minute are unable to get an appointment that fits their needs so they decide to go to a walk in clinic to just get the form signed. Keep reading to learn why this isn't a good substitute for a yearly physical in your child's medical home (AKA regular doctor's office).

Some parents don't think a yearly physical is important, and if not required to present a form to a school, sport, or camp, they simply don't do them. Their kids miss out on the benefits of a yearly physical.

Even when you think your child is healthy, there are several things that should be discussed, reviewed, and evaluated during the physical, so the visit isn't quick and it should be done in your child's medical home. If your child's regular physician is not available, there is still benefit to scheduling with another provider at your doctor's office as allowed by their policies. Past records are available to be able to compare current height to past growth. We can review vaccines and update as needed. We can update your child's record as needed since the last visit with new family medical history, changes in the home or school, and with your child's overall health.

Over the years I have "cleared" many student athletes by signing a pre-participation form required for high school sports or camps. On occasion I have not been able to sign the form, and this can lead to frustration for the athlete and his/her family.  If a physician or other licensed medical provider does not feel requriements have been met to "clear" an athlete for safe participation in sports, parents and their athlete often do not understand the "why" behind the need for further evaluation or treatment.

Common reasons to not clear an athlete for participation include recent concussion or a history of passing out that hasn't been fully evaluated.  I had one patient upset that I wouldn't sign the form because of a current broken bone... you can't play a sport in a cast! From the mother's perspective, she just wanted the form done today because the physical was today. From my perspective, the form can be signed when the child is able to play. I can't in good conscience say the student is able to play today if he is not. You don't want me as your child's pediatrician if I am able to attest to something I know is not true.

Please don't go to an urgent care or chiropractor to get the form signed when your regular doctor refuses due to a medical concern. I have seen parents do this -- omitting the fact that their child has passed out and needs further testing or had a concussion. That undermines the reason for the form in the first place! It is for your child's safety!

A glance at the Kansas Pre-Participation Physical Evaluation form's first page highlights many of the important topics to investigate. It would be impossible to completely cover every recommended topic at every physical, but standard recommendations include:

  • Review of health history, including chronic conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, learning disabilities etc), hospitalizations, surgeries
  • Review of family medical history
  • Height, weight, Body Mass Index (BMI), vital signs (blood pressure, pulse, respiratory rate) - comparison to previous values is most helpful
  • Puberty status
  • Nutrition, exercise, and weight management issues - including performance-enhancing substances
  • Sleep
  • Risk factors (safety, smoke exposure, violence, alcohol use, screen time, internet safety, and more)
  • Mental health (depression screening, drug/alcohol use, bullying)
  • Physical exam (special attention to cardiac system, musculoskeletal, neurologic and other sport's preventing problems)
  • Update vaccines as needed
  • Laboratory evaluation as needed: cholesterol screening, anemia screening, and other risk-based testing
Not included in this list is following up chronic conditions, addressing the issues raised at the physical, refilling all medicines, etc. There are times that addressing one or two specific issues is appropriate, but often there isn't enough time to adequately address all concerns. A separate visit may be needed to be able to devote appropriate attention to each issue. Please don't save up a year's worth of concerns to discuss at one visit each year. 

A well visit is recommended every year for all children over the age of 3 years (more for younger children). If your child hasn't had a well visit in the past year, call today or request a physical through our portal! Don't wait until the last minute... summer physicals book quickly.

The yearly well visit can be used to address all sports and camp physical forms that need to be done. Please bring them to your visit with the appropriate sections pre-filled out to save time in the office.

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