In the next four weeks, many of the student-athletes in Colorado will be seen for their annual sports pre-participation physical. According to The Physician and Sports Medicine, a publication endorsed by several orthopedic and family medicine societies, "The goal of the preparticipation examination (PPE) is to promote the health and safety of the athlete in training and competition." This publication goes on to acknowledge that PPE requirements vary widely by state. Yet, it remains an effective tool in identifying medical and orthopedic conditions that affect an athlete's ability to participate safely in sports.
In my experience, it is not uncommon that parents will express concern as to why they need to spend time and money on an examination each year. The above mentioned publication also points out that "These physicals are an important part of a child's healthcare." Healthcare is different from sickness or crisis care. In an insurance-minded society, it is easy to forget that healthcare involves things that we must do for ourselves in order to remain healthy. Healthcare is designed to be proactive. It is designed to be preventative. Healthcare should not be reactive. That is sickness care.
The PPE is an important tool in health promotion because it allows for a doctor to look at your child during a vital developmental period to verify that they are growing and maturing properly. Especially during the teen years, the body is rapidly developing. Bones are growing quickly, organs are developing and the nervous system is maturing as it orchestrates this entire process. As a result, an objective eye is critical.
There are many self care activities that you and your children should practice on your own. However, healthcare activities such as a yearly objective evaluation of heart sounds, spinal reflexes, cranial nerve function, spinal development, lung function and many other critical evaluations is necessary to ensure the health and safety of your children. Health-focused evaluations in the child such as the PPE, as well as those designed for adults are important to assist in early detection of more significant problems.
In my office, an evaluation in addition to the standard PPE is performed at each sports physical. Our clinic performs a unique biomechanical evaluation that provides additional preventative information for the athletes and their parents. Following the clinical examination, each student is provided with biomechanical feedback that addresses the structural integrity of their growing neuromusculoskeletal system. This examination provides information about structural problems that may affect the athlete's tissue tolerance and risk for injury. I believe that this is a vital addition to the standard evaluation. This information can help unveil underlying problems that could lead to participation-limiting injuries during the season. A structural evaluation combined with the standard clinical evaluation can help your child enjoy a fantastic year of sports activities.