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What every parent should know about school and sports physicals

NW Herald | April 2021 Submission

Now is the time to schedule your child’s annual school and sports physical, well before the rush of back-to-school preparations. Routine health screening is the most crucial step you can take for your school-age children this summer.

Does my child need an annual check-up and sports physical?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends annual exams for children and teens aged between five to eighteen.

A completed State of Illinois certificate of child’s health examination form is a requirement for kindergarten, grades 6 and 9, and new transfer students from out of state. Some grades will require completion of dental exam and eye exam as well.

A yearly sports physical is required for all athletes to participate in school-sponsored athletic programs. Sixth and ninth graders don’t need a separate sport physical if they already had an annual exam. Sports physicals are required for grades 7, 8, 10, 11 and 12 in order for your child to participate in any school-sponsored athletic program. These are good for 395 days from the date of the physical.

Why does my child need an annual physical?

Physicals allow your child’s doctor to perform a thorough medical checkup, update immunizations as required, and discuss any developmental or health issues your child may be facing. The purpose of the preparticipation physical evaluation is to maximize the health of athletes and their safe participation in sports.

It’s an opportunity for your family physician to gain a greater awareness of your child’s progress and development and detect any problems that may be emerging. In addition, it’s an opportunity to ask your child’s doctor for advice and information on essential nutrition and exercise topics. Plus, your doctor will counsel on other important safety and injury prevention measures: age-appropriate use of booster seats, seat belts, bike helmets, life vests, and other protective sports gear, since injuries are common in this age group. Your doctor will also discuss healthy lifestyle choices, including avoiding drugs, tobacco products and alcohol, and knowing the risks of sexual activity and birth control.

Your family doctor may also ask specific questions to screen your child for depression, anxiety, ADHD, bullying, and gender issues. You should let your doctor know if your child experienced shortness of breath, chest pain or any family history of sudden cardiac death at young age. Your child will also need forms completed for allergies, medications, whether over the counter or prescribed. The asthma action plan is a requirement for children who have asthma.

Why is it important to find the right doctor?

During their school-age years, children go through rapid growth, learning, exploration, and emotional and physical development. To ensure continuity and the best medical care, your child should have a primary care doctor.

It’s essential to find a trusted and qualified doctor who will develop a long-term relationship with you and your child and carefully monitor your child’s health year by year. An already established family doctor is the best resource for you because they have a comprehensive health record of your child, your family record and knows the family well.

Typically, there is paperwork that needs to be obtained by the parent from school, filled out by a parent, and taken to doctor’s appointment. The requirements for back-to-school medical forms vary from grade to grade and state to state so you should first check with your child’s school.

Why should I schedule back-to-school physical exams early?

The month before school starts can be remarkably busy for clinics, as many families schedule routine physical exams. Physicals take longer than sick visits, and appointments fill up fast so try to see your doctor at least six weeks before school starts.

Your child’s doctor may order lab work or other medical tests before signing the physical exam form. If you schedule too close to the start of school, you may not have time for the tests.

Dr. Viquar Mundozie, board certified family medicine doctor, sees patients at Mercyhealth Harvard South For more information or to schedule a same-day appointment, call (815) 943-1122.