Dr. Jacqueline Gerhart: Yearly Physical Beneficial For High School Student-Athlete
Madison, Wisconsin - UW Health Family Medicine physician Jacqueline Gerhart writes a column that appears Tuesdays on madison.com and in the Wisconsin State Journal. Columns are re-published here with permission.
Dear Dr. Gerhart: Why does the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association need high school student-athletes to get a physical exam every year for sports if nothing has changed?
Dear Reader: It can seem redundant to take your high schooler to the doctor each year. It's hard enough finding time for all the summer activities, camps, vacations and sports that your teens participate in. Where will you find the time?
While it might be hard to fit in a doctor's visit, I can assure you it will be time well spent. Health care providers cover a lot of ground during adolescent exams. We update and refill medications, check on allergies, go over any new symptoms or concerns, and update personal and family medical history. We discuss disease screening, immunizations, wellness, diet, exercise, media, self-esteem, personal safety and mood.
We also tackle more sensitive topics such as peer pressure, puberty, drugs, smoking, alcohol and sex. And we are privy to situations where it may be best to have the parent and teen in the room together, versus speaking with the teen privately.
The bottom line is that the above topics are covered at every routine health exam and should be done every year. However, the additional sports-specific questions and exam components can be done every other year to comply with WIAA requirements. So if you set up a "sports physical," we will cover all of the general health topics in a normal physical exam, as well as a sport-specific pre-participation evaluation.
The PPE helps us to screen for any risks your teen might have while playing sports. The main goals of the PPE are to evaluate prior injuries, prevent sudden cardiac death and promote safe participation in sports.
The timing of your child's pre-participation evaluation is important. In Wisconsin, if your child has the PPE before April 1, then the sports clearance is only good for the remainder of that year and one year after. However, if the exam is done after April 1, then it is good for two full years afterward.
For example, if an eighth-grader is starting high school in the fall, you can get his PPE done now, and that exam will be good for his freshman and sophomore years. In fact, you could have gotten it done as early as April 2, in the spring of his eighth-grade year, and it would be valid for the first two years of high school.
Therefore, if timed correctly, your high schooler may only need the official PPE two times for all four years of high school athletics. And, if you book your exam between April and August, then you can avoid the "last-minute rush" of teens running to the doctor for sports physicals.
This column provides general health information and is not specific advice intended for any particular individual(s). It is not a professional medical opinion or a diagnosis. Always consult your personal health care provider about your concerns. No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Gerhart to people submitting questions.
Date Published: 07/17/2012