It’s that time of year again. Time for Pre-Participation Exams (PPE) or better known as sports physicals. All young athletes’ middle school and older need to have a sports physical in order to compete in organized activity. So where are you supposed to go to get these done? That question has a couple of different answers to it. There are various outlets for a young athlete to complete their PPE. The most common one being your Pediatrician or Primary Care Provider (PCP). Sports physicals can also take place at your school in a mass physicals setting and also the more nontraditional ways of the walk-in clinic and even your local chiropractor. “So what’s best for my child?”
Obviously there are pros and cons to each of those scenarios but as a sports medicine provider I have my opinions. Our recommendations are that PPE’s be done by your Pediatrician or PCP. Who better to do a sports physical than your pediatrician who has known you for years, is done in a controlled setting of the office, and can take time to address any questions or concerns?
As a sports medicine provider we do mass sports physicals at various locations including some of our clinic spaces and at the high school itself. Although this may sound like a great option, at times it is not the most ideal situation. Athletes and parents will show up at designated times and it is a first come first serve basis and we can see upwards of 200-300 athletes in once evening. At times the room that the actual physical takes place in could be a locker room or a cafeteria which obviously is not ideal for a great physical exam. There are pros to the mass physicals they can fairly inexpensive and are usually done by sports medicine providers who are more in tune to the nuances of sports physicals. Walk-in clinics are inexpensive and convenient due to not having to make an appointment but can have its drawbacks as some of these clinics are staffed with inexperienced providers. These physicals are better than nothing but overall are not as good as seeing your PCP.
Some states allow chiropractors to do sports physicals and I would caution against going there to get it done. I’m not a chiropractor and nor do I know the full curriculum of chiropractic schooling but they generally do not learn the medical aspect of heart conditions, asthma and other important organ systems. With one of the goals of PPE’s to be screening for life threatening conditions, a chiropractor is not the best place to get one done.
Bottom line is all kids participating in sports need a PPE and your PCP is the best provider to do that but if you go elsewhere know the limitations.
Dr. Reno Ravindran is a board-certified family medicine physician and recently completed his sports medicine fellowship at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. He completed his residency at The Ohio State University.
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