Sports Physicals Help Ensure Student Athlete Safety
Most states, including California, require a pre-participation physical
exam for all athletes participating in interscholastic sports. Many community
athletic organizations also require a physical exam before an athlete
can participate in sports activities. To make it easier – and less
expensive – for high school student athletes and their families
to obtain pre-participation sports physical exams, Washington Sports Medicine
is offering a one-day clinic to provide the exams on Monday, August 3,
from 3 to 6 p.m.
“The purpose of these sports physical exams is to help ensure the
safety of young athletes who participate in various sports and to reduce
their risk of injury,” says Washington Sports Medicine Medical Director
Dr. Russell Nord.
An orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist, Dr. Nord notes, “Summer
is a great time for student athletes to have a pre-participation sports
physical exam since it is before the start of the school year and the
beginning of practices for fall sports. The clinic on August 3 is not
just for high school athletes who want to participate in fall sports,
however. Once an athlete has received medical clearance to participate
in athletics, that clearance is valid for a full year. So athletes who
want to participate in sports during other seasons can take advantage
of this service, too.”
The exams will be performed at the Washington Sports Medicine office, located
at 38690 Stivers Street, Suite A, in Fremont. The cost of the physical
is $15, which is lower than many co-payments for such exams. The first
25 athletes to have their sports physical exams that day will be entered
to win a $50 iTunes gift card.
“Washington Sports Medicine donates all the exam fees to help purchase
sports medicine supplies at high schools where we provide sports medicine
services,” notes Washington Hospital’s Manager of Off-Site
Services Mike Rogers, who also is a certified athletic trainer.
Before coming for their sports physicals, athletes must fill out the “Pre-participation
Physical Evaluation” form developed by the California Interscholastic
Federation. A parent or legal guardian must sign the form for any student
athlete under age 18. The forms can be downloaded for free from Washington
Hospital’s website at www.whhs.com/services/sports. The download
link can be found on the right-hand side of the page.
“At the clinic, athletic trainers go over detailed medical histories
for each athlete and conduct a preliminary exam before a physician or
physician assistant sees the athlete for a more thorough evaluation,”
Mr. Rogers explains. “The information provided on the evaluation
form is important because it can help us evaluate the athlete’s
medical history for any problems that might preclude or limit sports participation.”
During the exam, the medical staff at Washington Sports Medicine will examine
the student athlete from head to toe.
“We check the athletes’ height, weight, heart rate and blood
pressure,” says Dr. Nord. “We listen to their heart and lungs.
We examine their ears and mouths. We feel their necks to make sure they
don’t have any swollen lymph nodes. We also test their vision. It
is not uncommon to detect visual problems in patients who may not have
had a thorough eye exam. It can be a safety issue if an athlete doesn’t
see well. If the athlete’s vision is less than 20/40, we would recommend
corrective lenses – either glasses or contacts.”
The medical staff also assesses any chronic medical conditions, such as
asthma or severe allergic reactions, and makes sure those conditions are
controlled. Chronic conditions such as diabetes don't necessarily
preclude participation in sports, but it is important to determine whether
the patients are managing those conditions.
“Musculoskeletal problems, including prior injuries, represent the
final area of evaluation” Dr. Nord says. “We evaluate the
range of motion, strength and stability of the athletes’ joints.
If an injury hasn’t yet been treated, we can coordinate x-rays or
a referral to physical therapy if the athlete needs it before participating
In addition to bringing their completed forms, students participating in
the screenings on August 3 should wear comfortable clothing – shorts
and short-sleeved T-shirts. Each student also should have a parent or
legal guardian present. At the end of the physical exam, the medical provider
will have a conference with the parent or guardian to explain any findings.
“If there is a concern with the athlete, it’s best to address
it with the parents right away,” says Dr. Nord. “Plus, it’s
good to have parents there during the exams in case we have any questions
about the family medical history. For example, teens don’t usually
have detailed knowledge of any cardiac events that may have occurred in
According to Dr. Nord, if a patient has a condition that precludes participation
in some specific sports, it may not eliminate all sports activities. For
example, someone who is not cleared to participate in contact sports such
as football, basketball or soccer might be able to take part in swimming,
tennis or track.
“In most cases, the athletes are cleared for participation in all
sports without restriction,” he says. “There is a small subset
of patients who do have conditions, such as asthma, that need attention.
One of the most common recommendations we make is to tell patients with
asthma to be sure to have their inhalers with them at all practices and games.
“The pre-participation sports physical actually can be a fun experience,”
he adds. “Plus, the athletes can benefit from getting advice from
the athletic trainers and physicians on ways to avoid injuries that can
disrupt their participation in sports.”
For more information about the pre-participation sports physicals on August
3, call (510) 248-1030. To download the required “Pre-participation
Physical Evaluation” forms, visit www.whhs.com/services/sports.
The $15 physical fee must be paid in cash or by check made out to WHHS.