School’s been out for a little while now and I’m sure your family is settling into a routine that involves the careful balance of work and summer fun for your kids. The last thing on your mind is probably the upcoming school year, but now might be a good time to schedule those back-to-school physicals for primary, secondary and college-age students. I get a lot of questions about these physicals – here are some of the ones I hear the most.
Why Are Sports Physicals Necessary?
The last thing you want as a parent is to be watching your child during a game and see them suffer some type of health event that could have been prevented, or worse, should have been avoided due to underlying health problems. A sports physical is performed to help prevent this from happening. Your doctor can check that your athlete is physically fit for athletic participation. It includes checking weight, height, blood pressure, heart rate and general fitness.
Will My Child’s Annual Physical Meet their Sports Physical Requirement or Are Two Physicals Needed?
Unless otherwise specified by your child’s school, a physical exam performed by their pediatrician should meet requirements for athletics with the added benefit of assessing other aspects of your teenagers' health and well-being. This is a great time for your physician to talk with your teen about some of the pressures they might be facing this year – such as drugs, alcohol or other stress, and it also gives them a chance to go over your child’s health history to look for any red flags that may be cause for concern.
When Should I schedule My Child’s Physical?
As far as physicals go, the sooner the better. Many sports, especially at the high school level, begin practicing in mid-to-early August, which means many of those students will be trying to get an appointment in late July or early August. The sooner you schedule a summer appointment, the more likely it is that you will have more wiggle room in appointment time – and more time in case additional testing is necessary. As an added bonus, it will make back to school less stressful to get it out of the way early.
What Immunizations Are Needed?
The answer to this question will depend on how old your child is and what shots they’ve previously taken. Generally speaking, between kindergarten and 12th grade, your child will need several doses of the following immunizations: Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), polio, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), hepatitis B and varicella. Ultimately, your pediatrician will be able to tell you what immunizations and doses are needed based on your child’s immunization record. Additionally, if you have a student headed for college, Texas law requires all incoming students be immunized against meningitis, whether they live on campus or not.
Don't assume your child is healthy if you can't see any signs that say otherwise, or that complaints are the result of “growing pains.” Scheduling an annual physical can help you be sure your child is at his or her best. As an experienced pediatrician who’s committed to helping our communities grow and thrive, overall family health is always my priority – and that starts with children.
Dr. Jennifer Lai is a board-certified pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Spring Medical and Diagnostic Center. She’s accepting summer appointments for school and sports physicals for kids of all ages.