The Pre-Participation Physical Exam
As summer winds down and everyone is getting ready to return to school, many parents and kids have to prepare for sports participation during the next school year. An important part of that process is the sports pre-participation physical exam (PPE). This is an annual requirement of most high schools across the country and the LHSAA is no different.
The purpose of the PPE is not to disqualify or exclude an athlete from participation but rather to help maintain the health and safety of the athlete during training and competition.
Primary goals of the PPE include:
Identify medical and orthopedic problems that may put the athlete at risk for injury or illness
Identify correctable problems that may affect the ability to perform
Maintain health and safety
Assess fitness level for specific sports
Educate parents, athletes, and coaches about sports fitness, exercise, and injuries
Meet legal and insurance requirements.
Several components make up the exam, but remember it is not meant to take the place of routine exam and wellness visits with a primary care provider or established doctor. It generally will include the following:
Past Medical History – VERY IMPORTANT! This is reported by the athlete/ parents. It involves conditions reported such as diabetes, asthma, heart disease etc. and of course any medications
Sports Injury history – Here it is important to know about previous injuries /surgeries and any time when the athlete was disqualified for example with concussions
Family History – Most important here is a family history of heart disease or unexplained death under the age of 50
Vitals and measurements- These will include pulse, blood pressure, height , weight, vision check and hearing
Physical Exam by Health care provider(s) will cover ENT exam, Chest and Heart exam, Abdominal and Genitourinary exam, Neurologic exam and Orthopedic exam. Areas highlighted in the athlete history will of course get closer attention.
Upon the completion of the exam the medical professional reviewing will determine if there is a need for further testing and then answer the following questions:
Can the athlete participate in his/her sport?
If so, are there any restrictions and for how long?
If not, what conditions must be met before reconsideration of participation?
Is referral to a specialist warranted?
This exam can be performed by your preferred qualified physician of course, but often it is completed in mass situations to accommodate several athletes at one time with providers manning “stations” in their area of expertise.
Usually this is a community service which is very convenient to coaches, athletes, and parents and allows the majority of athletes to meet requirements. These are usually done before the start of school and in fact many communities/schools arrange for these in the spring before the next school year while the athletes are more available.
And although the focus of this article was on the junior high, high school, and college athletes, a pre-participation physical or physician consultation is not a bad idea for anyone who is considering a new fitness program or sport! As always, PREVENTION is better than treatment any day!