Sports Pre-Participation Physical Examinations (PPE)

Sports Pre-Participation Physical Examinations (PPE)

In the Sports medicine field, the sports physical exam is known as a pre-participation physical examination (PPE). The exam helps determine whether it’s safe for a child or teen to participate in certain sports. A PPE is different from a standard physical. Most states require a PPE before starting a new sport or begin a new competitive season. Even if a PPE isn’t required, The physicians at Alpharetta and Cumming Internal Medicine highly recommend getting one. The two main parts of a PPE are medical history and a physical exam.

Why is a Sports Physical Important?

A PPE can help to find out about and deal with health problems that might interfere with your child or teen’s participation in a sport. For example, if they have frequent asthma but are a starting forward in a soccer match, your physician may prescribe a different inhaler or adjust the dosage so that they can breathe more easily when running. Your physician may even have training tips and ideas for avoiding injuries such as stretching or strengthening activities, that help prevent injuries. We also can identify risk factors that are linked to specific sports. Advice like this will make your child or teen a better, stronger athlete!

Medical History

This part of the exam includes questions about:

  • Illnesses among family members
  • Illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, or epilepsy
  • Previous hospitalizations or surgeries
  • Allergies (insect bites, etc.)
  • Past injuries (including concussions, sprains, or bone fractures)
  • Questions concerning feeling dizzy, chest pain, or trouble breathing during exercise
  • Current medication (over-the-counter medication, herbal supplements, and prescription drugs)

Looking at patterns of illness in a family is a good way to consider possible conditions a child or teen may have. The physicians at Alpharetta and Cumming Internal Medicine believe the medical history is the most important part of a sports physical exam.

Physical Examination

During this part of the PPE your physician will usually:

  • Record height and weight
  • Take a blood pressure and pulse reading
  • Test vision
  • Check the heart, lungs, abdomen, ears, nose, and throat
  • Evaluate posture, joints, strength, and flexibility

Getting a PPE once a year is usually adequate. Although most of the exam will be the same for males and females, your physician may ask different questions. They will inquire about use of drugs, alcohol, or dietary supplements, including steroids or other “performance enhancers” and weight-loss supplements, because these can affect a child or teen’s health.

PPE Conclusions

At the end of the examination, your physician will sign a form if everything is satisfactory or, in some cases, recommend a follow-up exam, additional tests, or specific treatment for medical problems. A physical should be completed about 6 weeks before the sports season begins so there is enough time to follow up on something if necessary. If your physician asks for additional tests or a follow-up exam — it could be something as simple as rechecking blood pressure a few weeks after the examination. It is very unlikely that a child or teen will be disqualified from playing sports. The ultimate goal of the sports physical is to make sure they are safe while playing sports, not to stop them from playing.

Ongoing PPE Maintenance

Even if a PPE doesn’t reveal any problems, it’s always wise to monitor your child or teen when they play sports. If you notice changes in their physical condition — even if you think they are small, such as muscle pain or shortness of breath — be sure to follow up. Just as professional sports stars need medical care to keep them playing their best, so do child or teenage athletes. You can give them the same edge as the pros by making sure they have a PPE annually!

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