What to Expect During a Sports Physical

Are you the parent of a first-time athlete? While you’re excited to see your child play sports, it’s important to remember to get their sports physical completed.

Across the country, middle schools, high schools, and colleges require athletes to undergo a physical exam before participating in sports. Schools can prevent athletes from practicing until they submit their physical exams. 

Whether you’re a parent scheduling your child’s first sports physical or an athlete wondering what your exam will consist of, it’s important to be prepared. Keep reading to find out what your appointment will look like. 

What Is a Sports Physical?  

A sports physical, or pre-participation physical, is an examination conducted by health care professionals. These determine whether an athlete can take part in athletic events. 

A sports physical is not the same as an annual physical with a pediatrician or doctor. While some pediatricians conduct sports physicals at the same time as an annual one, sports physicals can’t replace an annual visit.

A majority of schools and institutions require these examinations to ensure the health and safety of athletes.

Preparing for the Physical

The athlete’s school should provide a physical examination packet. This packet is typically four pages.

The first two pages are to be filled out by the parent or guardian. The first page consists of general medical questions, questions about family history, and information about the athlete.

The second page is for athletes with special needs or disabilities. This page is also to be filled out by a parent or guardian before the appointment.

It is important to fill out these pages as accurately as possible. A parent or guardian should be present to help fill these pages out, as some sections discuss family health history.

Be sure to check with your provider about any other information you may need to bring to your appointment. Some doctors may request a list of medications or previous immunization records. 

What to Expect During the Appointment

The physical examination can be anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes, depending on the provider. The doctor or nurse practitioner will examine a host of different physical attributes. 

Parents can request to be in the room with their children. During the sports physical for teens, teenagers may feel more comfortable speaking with the provider privately. This allows your teen to be more honest with the doctor.


The doctor will typically go over the forms that were previously filled out. They may also ask more personal questions about mental health and personal safety.

Teenagers may also be asked about drug and alcohol consumption, as well as questions about sexual health. 

Girls will answer questions about their menstrual cycle to ensure their cycle is normal. 

You and your child need to be honest with the doctor when they ask questions. This can be detrimental to the health and well-being of your athlete.

Physical Exam

During the physical examination, the doctor will perform various tests. These help determine your physical health. 

Your provider will look at your:

  • Vision
  • Hearing
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Blood Pressure

They may also request the patient run in place to measure heart rate. Similarly, the provider will check for scoliosis and other bodily functions like reflexes and coordination. 

The provider may also feel your neck to check lymph nodes, and press on your abdomen to check for pain. Similarly, your doctor may request a urine sample to ensure healthy organ functions. 

In some cases, providers may order additional, blood work, labs, or other examinations for your athlete. 

Your provider will sign off on your athlete’s sports clearance at the end of the appointment, provided their screening was normal.

How Often Is a Sports Physical Needed?

These physical examinations are typically valid for one full year. Many schools and institutions will require athletes to receive a physical every year to continue participating in athletics. 

Many parents will choose to have their child’s pediatrician conduct the examination. However, some schools will provide a medical professional to conduct physicals for student-athletes. 

If you can’t get an appointment for a pre-participation physical scheduled with a pediatrician before your child would begin participating in athletics, urgent cares provide quality and standard health screenings. 

Health professionals can provide these physicals at MedNow Urgent Care to get your athlete properly screened and ready to compete. MedNow Urgent Care also offers walk-in appointments which are perfect for busy families.

What if I Don’t Pass?

It’s rare for a child to be completely denied clearance from participating in school-sponsored athletics. If this occurs, your provider will offer steps to take to help your athlete become fit for participation.

More commonly, a child will be cleared for participation with restrictions. If the athlete is found to have a condition rendering them unable to safely participate, healthcare providers can clear them with restrictions. 

These restrictions can vary. The athlete may need continuous treatment while participating or may need to wear specific protective gear while practicing or competing, for example.

Are These Really Necessary?

Yes! A sports physical exam is important to ensure the health and well-being of your student-athlete. 

These examinations differ from your child’s annual physical. These sports examinations ensure that young athletes can safely engage in athletic events, practices, and competitions.

While these can seem like a hassle, sports physicals are extremely important. They help to prevent your child from sustaining serious injuries as a result of an undiagnosed condition.

Don’t Wait to Get Your Physical Done

Make sure to get your child’s sports physical completed before your school’s stated deadline. Delaying this process can prevent your child from being able to participate in their sport.

Be sure, to be honest, and upfront with the healthcare provider. This ensures that your child can safely participate on the field or court!

If you found this article helpful, be sure to check out the rest of our website for more health and wellness posts! 

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