A person gets a sports physical by a health care provider to find out if it is safe to start a new sport or a new sports season. Most states require a sports physical before children and teens can play.
Sports physicals do not take the place of regular medical care or routine checkups.
Why Do You Need a Sports Physical?
The sports physical is done to:
- Find out if you are in good health.
- Measure the maturity of your body.
- Measure your physical fitness.
- Learn about injuries you have now.
- Find conditions you may have been born with that could make you more likely to be injured or that may increase your chance of having heart problems during exercise.
The provider can give advice on how to protect yourself from injury while playing a sport, and how to safely play with a medical condition or chronic illness. For example, if you have asthma, you may need a change in medicine to better control it while playing sports.
What Happens During a Sports Physical?
Providers may perform sports physicals differently from one another. But they always include a conversation about your medical history and a physical exam.
Your provider will want to know about your health, your family's health, your medical problems, and what medicines you take.
The physical exam is similar to your annual checkup, but with some added things that relate to playing sports. The provider will focus on the health of your lungs, heart, bones, and joints. Your provider may:
- Measure your height and weight
- Measure your blood pressure and pulse
- Test your vision
- Check your heart, lungs, belly, ears, nose, and throat
- Check your joints, strength, flexibility, and posture
Your provider may ask about:
- Your diet
- Your use of drugs, alcohol, and supplements
- Your menstrual periods if you're a girl or woman
What Information Should You Bring to the Visit?
If you get a form for your medical history, fill it out and bring it with you. If not, bring this information with you:
- Allergies and what kind of reactions you have had
- A list of the immunization shots you have had, with the dates you had them
- A list of medicines you take, including prescription, over-the-counter, and supplements (such as vitamins, minerals, and herbs)
- If you use contact lenses, dental appliances, orthotics, or have piercings
- Illnesses you had in the past or have now
- Injuries you have had, including concussions, broken bones, dislocated bones
- Hospitalizations or surgeries you have had
- Times you passed out, felt dizzy, had chest pain, had heat illness, or had trouble breathing during exercise
- Illnesses in your family, including any deaths related to exercise or sports
- A history of your weight loss or gain over time
Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomon BS, Stewart RW. Sports participation evaluation. In: Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomon BS, Stewart RW, eds. Seidel's Guide to Physical Examination. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:chap 25.
Landry GL. Epidemiology and prevention of injuries. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 706.
Last reviewed on: 4/27/2023
Reviewed by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.