Written by SMH Senior Communications Editor Kim Savage
Just as professional sports stars need medical care to keep them playing their best, so do student athletes.
School sports physicals, also called “pre-participation exams,” or PPEs, are preventative measures to help minimize the risk of sports-related injuries. The exams are designed to identify health conditions that may require treatment before or during play, such as high blood pressure; heart, lung or vision conditions; and previous musculoskeletal injuries.
“A sports physical is not designed to disqualify students, but rather to ensure an athlete’s body can handle the physical demands of a sport,” said Dr. Reuben Holland, medical director of Sarasota Memorial’s two emergency care centers and six urgent care centers. “If an existing injury or potential problem is identified, we can address them early so students can train and compete safely.”
Doctors also use the exam to reinforce injury prevention strategies and general safety, including stretching and strengthening exercises, concussion management, healthy eating habits, wearing seat belts and helmets, and avoiding drugs and alcohol.
Most Sarasota-area schools require a sports physical every year. But even if a PPE isn’t required, Holland said, it’s still highly recommended for children and adolescents engaging in athletics.
Although there is no hard and fast rule about when students should have their sports physical, experts recommend at least six weeks before the sports season begins.
“Summer is the perfect time for student athletes to have their exam,” Dr. Holland said. “That allows time to address conditions or previous injuries that otherwise might force kids to sit out part of the season.”
It’s important to note that sports exams and school physicals do not replace the recommended annual wellness exam for kids. A wellness exam, typically given by a primary care physician, is much more extensive and includes evaluating the child’s growth and development for comparison to past annual visits.
Walk-in Sports Physicals for Student Athletes
Sarasota Memorial’s urgent care centers offer $20 school sports physicals for kids in kindergarten through 12th grade (ages 5 to 18) year-round. (Visit includes completion of FL DH 680 form and transfer of immunization records, if provided.)
The urgent cares are open 8 am-8 pm daily, including weekends and most holidays. No appointment necessary. Call (941) 917-7777 or visit the SMH urgent care website for maps and directions to the location nearest you.
Kim Savage is Sarasota Memorial's public information officer and senior communications editor, overseeing media relations and external communications for the health system since 1999.