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HEALTHY LIVING — Importance of sports physicals

You already know that playing sports helps keep youth fit. You also know that sports are a fun way to socialize and meet people. But you might not know why the physical athletes have to take at the beginning of the sports season is so important.

In the sports medicine field, the sports physical exam is known as a pre-participation physical examination. The exam helps determine whether it’s safe for your child to participate in a particular sport. The UIL Texas requires that youth have a sports physical annually and doctors highly recommend getting one.

The two main parts to a sport physical are the medical history and the physical exam. Take your time and answer the questions carefully and truthfully.

Although most aspects of the exam will be the same for males and females, if a person has started or already gone through puberty, the doctor may ask girls and guys different questions. For example, if a girl is heavily involved in a lot of active sports, the doctor may ask her about her period and diet to make sure she doesn’t have something like female athlete triad. Female athlete triad is a combination of three conditions: disordered eating, amenorrhea, and osteoporosis. A female athlete can have one, two, or all three parts of the triad. A doctor will also ask questions about use of drugs, alcohol, or dietary supplements, including steroids or other “performance enhancers” and weight-loss supplements, because these can affect a person’s health.

A sports physical can help you find out about and deal with health problems that might interfere with your child’s participation in a sport. For example, if the child has frequent asthma attacks but is a starting forward in soccer, a doctor might be able to prescribe a different type of inhaler or adjust the dosage so that he or she can breathe more easily when running. A doctor also can identify risk factors that are linked to specific sports.

Many times, health concerns that have not presented themselves previously will be uncovered in an exam, such as heart issues or skeletal irregularities. Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that occurs most often during the growth spurt just before puberty. Quite often this is discovered during the PPE. It can onset quickly and advance aggressively.

You should have your physical about six weeks before your sports season begins so there’s enough time to follow up on something, if necessary. Neither you nor your doctor will be very happy if your child’s PPE is the day before baseball practice starts and it turns out there’s something that needs to be taken of care before they can suit up.

If your child is playing a sport and mentions back pain, unusual headaches, shortness of breath, or chest pain, pay attention and see a doctor.

Just as professional sports stars need medical care to keep them playing their best, so do youth athletes. You can give them the same edge as the pros by making sure they have a sports physical. Play healthy, my friends.

Jody Holton writes about health for The Port Arthur News.