A school physical is an annual check that most schools require before your child can participate in school sports. The purpose is to help ensure it is safe for your child to participate. While a primary physician can perform a school physical, you can also go to an urgent care provider.

What is a school physical?

Getting a school physical is an effective way to monitor your child’s health from year-to-year. It’s also an opportunity for you and your child to ask the physician questions about health, diet, and the impact of playing sports.

The school exam will tell you if your child’s physical health is in good order or if any issues require follow-up. The goal of the physical is to encourage healthy and safe participation, not to try and exclude anyone from playing sports.

What can I expect from a school physical?

During a school physical, a physician will ask a series of questions about your child’s medical history. They will ask you to provide information on the following:

  • Family medical history
  • Childhood illnesses
  • Past injuries
  • Past surgeries
  • Past hospitalizations
  • Current medications
  • Current fitness

The doctor will also perform a full, non-invasive check of your child’s body which typically includes the following:

  • Measuring weight and height
  • Taking vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate)
  • Testing vision and hearing
  • Checking eyes, ears, nose, throat, lungs, heart, abdomen
  • Evaluating neck, spine, shoulders, wrists, elbows, knees, legs, and feet

If more information is needed, the doctor might also ask to run a lab test which can include a blood or urine test.

How does a school physical differ from an annual physical?

While the purpose of a school physical is to determine if your child is healthy enough to play a particular sport, an annual physical, also known as a Well Child Exam, is more extensive. It looks at your child’s overall health, including physical, developmental, emotional, and social determinants.

Sometimes, a healthcare provider can perform sports and annual physicals during the same visit.

When should my child get a school physical?

Aim to schedule your child’s school physical six to eight weeks before the sports season starts. This way, if there are any issues, you have time to follow up with additional testing or treatment.

In summary

Your child or college student can get a school physical at urgent care. You can also go to your child’s pediatrician or another healthcare provider.

Be sure to schedule the appointment six to eight weeks before the start of the sports season, so you have time for follow-up if needed. With some preparation, you can ensure your child’s safety and get them ready to participate in the sport they love.

Common services provided by urgent care centers include in-person & virtual care for physical examination, ear infections, allergic reactions, and more.

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