Sports Physicals with Dr. Toni Youngdahl

A sports physical focuses on whether a patient is safe to participate in a specific sport. At a high school level, they're required for the Minnesota State High School League. If a child is healthy they can go every two to three years, but in some situations, we will have kids come back every year. The physical exam is really basic, not embarrassing and not painful. We perform a heart and lung exam and joint exam. For a lot of teens, it is really our only opportunity to see them in the clinic for non-acute issues.

After seventh grade we don’t see a lot of our kids until they're due for their sports physical, so we also take the opportunity to address other topics such as mental health, school performance, peer relationships. We update vaccines and it also gives us opportunity to talk about concussions and screen for cardiac diseases prior to participation. We like to talk about nutrition and importance of healthy lifestyle choices during those visits.

We still recommend annual well child visits for all kids. The sports physical is really more about the screening questions and making sure they're safe and ready to participate in their sport, so we do still recommend both of them.

The most important recommendation for kids playing sports would be not to specialize in one sports at an early age. That's really common now and the problem with it is that it increases the risk of sports related and overuse injuries. Encourage kids to continue to participate in multiple activities, not just sports but band and trap shooting and other activities so that they're not so focused on just one thing.

It's really important that athletes at all ages take the time to rest between practices and games. It’s really important to get adequate sleep at night since that's our body's chance to recover and refuel for the next day. Nutrition and staying well hydrated are both really important and can be hard for young athletes. It’s important to talk about those issues at the sports physical.

We tend to have athletic trainers or physicians or other providers at a lot of the high school events to take care of acute injuries during a game, so we're able to see those athletes at that time, but for other athletes if you have persistent joint pain or swelling, feelings of instability or if a joint is popping or making funny noises, obviously that would be a time to come, in to the doctor to have that evaluated.