Annual sports physicals: Why Ozarks pediatricians say it’s more than a checklist

Published: Aug. 12, 2021 at 8:37 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - It’s almost time for kids to hit the books again and some to jog back onto the field. Every athlete knows that comes along with filling out some paperwork and a trip to the doctor.

Sports physicals are typically good for two years. For some athletes, it might be time to get one again.

”I know a lot of times the goal is ‘Okay, I got to get this done by this date and get this turned into this school,’” said Dr. Ashley Merrick, a Mercy pediatrician in Branson. “Try to get those done earlier rather than later when at all possible. So if we do find an issue, we can get that taken care of before it needs to be turned into the school before they start missing any deadlines.”

Pediatricians say you should not wait until the last minute for lots of reasons, but most importantly to stay on top of your child’s health.

”If they’re here for a sports physical, we really focus on any family history of heart disease, any family history of any issues that might interfere with their ability to play sports and be healthy with it,” Merrick said.

She said physicals can sometimes help catch issues a child or their family did not know about.

”That’s something that happens, not infrequently, where we find either the child has a murmur, they tell me that they’re having chest pain, or whenever they exercise, they get dizzy, or lightheaded or almost passed out,“ Merrick said. “Or we find out that there’s a family history of a genetic type of heart disease that we need to get them checked for, because it could lead to them being one of those athletes that has problems on the field.”

”We’ve seen several instances of that nationally where physicians have been able to catch that and potentially save a students life,” said Springfield Public Schools Athletic Director Josh Scott.

Doctors, coaches and athletic directors alike said the most important thing is honesty.

”Be transparent,” Scott said. “If a student’s not feeling well, a lot of times for a young 15- or 16-year-old young man or young woman, they don’t necessarily want to share their personal situation with their body with their health professional. And that is the absolute last thing that you can do.”

A few questions might be about COVID-19 if you get a sports physical done anytime soon.

”Ones who have already had COVID, we’re wanting to check for any signs of inflammation in their heart or inflammation in their lungs to make sure we don’t need to get them in with a heart specialist or a lung specialist to make sure that they’re safe to participate,” Merrick said.

She said it also may be a good chance to discuss vaccines for children who are old enough. Merrick said another topic that comes up in a sports physical is mental health.

“We also use that opportunity as a time to screen for depression and anxiety and things like that,” she said. “That’s really important with our teenagers, and that they might not get checked for in other places.”

Merrick said she recommends you complete sports physicals with your primary care doctor when you can, because they have access to previous medical records.

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