It’s that time of year again…Back To School and Sports Physicals
You know the end of summer break. When everyone starts shopping for school clothes and supplies. To me this time of year means sports physical rush. Most of my experience with the physical rush was while I was working retail health. Parents are looking for the most cost effective physical. They are looking to get the physical done in a reasonable amount of time. They have multiple children requiring physicals. After a few physical seasons, I noticed the same common mistakes that cost time, money and negative emotions. So, I decided to develop a sports physical checklist to help parents navigate this hectic time of year.
Be sure to check with your individual school as they may have their own physical forms. Many schools use the standard sports physical forms AIA Sports Physical Form. You can save time by completing the forms prior to arrival. The provider will review these forms and ask questions regarding the medical conditions listed. Another good idea is to bring documentation that discusses the condition and restrictions if any. It is not fun when you are doing a physical exam and the parent can’t remember the name of the cardiac condition the child had in the past. This could result in the child not passing the physical exam. Depending on the provider you may have to bring paperwork back or pay for another physical exam. This leads me to the next tip.
Cost of the physical exam may vary depending on the location. Most places are competitive in their pricing. You can also check online for coupons and deals. Contrary to what people may believe, you are paying for the provider to do the exam. Based on the exam the provider may or may not clear the patient. You are not paying for your child to be cleared to play sports or participate in activities. Sometimes the provider finds something in the medical history or physical exam that is of concern. The provider may then require the patient to be evaluated by their primary care provider or specialist, such as a cardiologist. I experienced many instances in which parents were furious because they were not cleared and demanded a refund, which was never given. If you have health insurance check with them to see if the physical exam is covered. Most retail clinics do not take health insurance for sports/school physicals. You could potentially save money by going to your primary care. Check your co-pay prices if you have them as it could cost more than a retail clinic or urgent care clinic.
If you are planning on getting a physical done by your primary care provider, schedule your appointment ahead of time. Most primary care offices will be booked far in advanced for these types of physicals. If you are going to retail clinics or other types of clinic, check to see if you can schedule an appointment. Take advantage of these to avoid long waits. I can recall a number of times when parents were frustrated with the 1.5 hour to 2 hour wait times. At that time my clinic was not making appointments, but they are now.
This is a must for the physical exam. We do eye exams. It’s never a good feeling when the patient doesn’t have their glasses and can’t pass the vision screening. You maybe thinking, it’s just glasses. You can surely clear them for that. I could but, how would I know. How do I know this kid has glasses? How do I know if this kid has ever seen an eye doctor? I don’t know anything but what is in front of me. At that moment I know this child can’t see clearly. Most cases the parents can bring the kid back with their glasses, but again this is definitely an inconvenience to both parties.
I would not have included this section had I not seen this myself. If your child is currently under the care of a specialist for a physical or neurological injury they will not be cleared for sports. Once their specialist has cleared them to return to physical activities, then a sports physical can and will be done. Please do not attempt to have a sports physical done with a cast on your extremities and expect to be cleared.
Although this is not something required during the physical exam, I do encourage people with asthma to have their inhaler handy. If you do not have an inhaler sometimes the provider may prescribe one for you. Make sure the child has several inhalers readily available. One should be at the school and on the child. Ensure the child is using their inhalers properly. If they are on maintenance medications make sure they are taking the medications as directed.
Ok this last one is more for the providers and medical staff, but please bring your smile. Sports/school physical season days are usually long and busy. In the retail settings I was doing anywhere between 30-40 physicals a day. This did not include the walk-in sick visits as well. I know the long wait times doesn’t help with the frustration. I’ve seen those parents coming in at the last minute because their child forgot to tell them that the physical for Fall sports is due tomorrow. We all have experiences that can have a negative impact on mood from day to day. Please remember to smile and be kind to the providers and medical staff as they are working hard to help you complete these tasks.