Cover the bases: Sports physicals are no substitute for comprehensive checkups

June 16, 2014

Nearly half of parents say any qualified health care provider – not just a child's usual provider – can do a sports physical, according to a new University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health.

One quarter of the 434 parents surveyed in the poll took their child to an alternate location for the most recent sports physical, says Sarah J. Clark, M.P.H. , associate director of the National Poll on Children's Health and associate research scientist in the University of Michigan Department of Pediatrics.

Sports physicals don't have to cover all health concerns if a child is seeing his or her regular provider for regular checkups. The vast majority (89 percent) of parents surveyed in this poll said sports physicals are not a substitute for regular care, However, national data show that adolescents have much lower rates of well-child visits compared with younger children, suggesting that parents may fail to follow through on getting the comprehensive checkups.

"For many parents, this may be a matter of convenience. The 'physical night' option at school might be easier than scheduling a visit with a regular that corresponds with sports season timing," says Clark.

"Parents differ in their views of sports physicals. One view is that sports physicals are a 'check the box' requirement for generally healthy kids, so they can be done by any , with convenience being a key factor," Clark says.

The video will load shortly

"Another view is that sports physicals should be very in-depth, even including diagnostic tests such as an EKG or echocardiogram to check for underlying heart conditions in kids without symptoms. But parents may not realize that most primary care offices may not have the technology for those types of tests."

The poll found that most parents rated measuring blood pressure (88 percent) and testing vision (73 percent) as "very important" to include in a sports physical. A lower – but still sizable percentage of parents rated it "very important" to give vaccines (64 percent), test for heart problems (63 percent) and provide brain scans for kids with prior concussions (47 percent) during a sports physical.

The also asked parents about what should be discussed during a sports physical. The largest percentage, 78 percent, said medical history, followed by concussions (68 percent), alcohol and other drugs (57 percent), nutrition (55 percent) and performance-enhancing drugs (51 percent).

"For some adolescents, sports physicals may be the only interaction with a provider over the course of a year," Clark says. "So failing to talk about nutrition or or any healthcare topic especially important to athletes or adolescents really could be a missed opportunity."

Clark says should make sure they understand what is and what isn't covered during a sports physical and make sure their child gets a more comprehensive checkup with a regular healthcare provider to fill in any gaps.

Explore further: Parents unclear about process for specialist care for kids

Related Stories

Parents unclear about process for specialist care for kids

January 28, 2014
Parents vary widely in views about their responsibilities in getting specialty care for their children, according to a new University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health.

Parents of overweight kids more likely to give schools failing grades for fighting obesity

May 20, 2014
Parents – especially those of overweight children – give schools a failing grade for efforts to encourage healthy habits that combat childhood obesity, according to a new poll from the University of Michigan.

Parents want e-mail consults with doctors, but don't want to pay for them

October 21, 2013
Most parents would love to get an e-mail response from their kids' health care provider for a minor illness rather than making an office visit, but about half say that online consultation should be free, according to a new ...

Only one-third of parents follow doctors' orders for kids all of the time

March 18, 2013
Pediatricians regularly dispense advice to parents of young children during well-child visits, but a new University of Michigan poll shows that many aren't following doctors' orders.

Pay-to-play sports keeping lower-income kids out of the game

May 14, 2012
In an era of tight funding, school districts across the country are cutting their athletic budgets. Many schools are implementing athletic participation fees to cover the cost of school sports. But those fees have forced ...

Medical research needs kids, but two-thirds of parents unaware of opportunities

November 26, 2013
To improve healthcare for children, medical research that involves kids is a must. Yet, only five percent of parents say their children have ever participated in any type of medical research, according to a new University ...

Recommended for you

High-fat diet in pregnancy can cause mental health problems in offspring

July 21, 2017
A high-fat diet not only creates health problems for expectant mothers, but new research in an animal model suggests it alters the development of the brain and endocrine system of their offspring and has a long-term impact ...

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.