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Playing on a school or community sports team is a great way for teens to stay active and get involved in the local area, but participation in such activities requires adequate preparation and protection.

That preparation starts with getting a sports physical to make sure their bodies are ready for the season ahead. Most states require a physical before any season, but even if your state doesn’t require a sports physical, it’s a good idea for every teen who plays a sport to get one to make sure they’re in top shape and healthy enough to safely participate.

What is a Sports Physical?

A sports physical is a check-up to assess a teen’s health and fitness as it relates to a sport. Contrary to popular belief, sports physicals are not the same as annual physicals. During the sports physical, your primary care physician looks for any diseases or injuries that could make it unsafe to participate in sports and reviews the family’s medical history to ensure additional tests are performed if necessary.

Where is a Sports Physical Done?

Physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners can perform a sports physical and sign the required forms, and most urgent care centers are able to perform the task as well. While sports physicals are offered at ‘minute clinics,’ such as those inside some drug store chains, they should not take the place of an annual physical exam by a pediatrician or primary care physician.

When is a Sports Physical Performed?

Ideally, sports physicals should be done anywhere from six to eight weeks before the sports season starts. This way, if a condition needs to be treated, or a follow-up exam is required, there will be enough time before the sport begins to be cleared to play.

A sports physical requires a bit more preparation than a walk in appointment does, but the hassle is worth the guarantee of safety and preparation to play in the upcoming sports season. A medical history will need to be filled out, and mostly basic questions will be asked, but that doesn’t take away from the overall importance of the physical itself.