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What’s the Difference Between Sports Physicals & Regular Physicals?

Picture of a doctor holding a stethoscope on a young girl's back.Is your child interested in playing a sport, whether on a school team, in a recreational league, or for a club? If so, you’ve probably started shopping for equipment, reviewing the practice schedule, and planning for game day snacks. Another task your child will likely need to complete before joining their team of choice is receiving a sports physical. What exactly are sports physicals, and how do they differ from regular physicals? PhysicianOne Urgent Care has the answers you need.

What Are Sports Physicals?

The goal of a sports physical is to determine whether a child is healthy enough to participate in certain athletic activities. Before signing off on any required forms, the provider will need to review the child’s medical and family histories and conduct a physical examination, during which they’ll assess the child’s:

  • Height
  • Weight
  • Vision
  • Ears, nose, and throat
  • Lungs and abdomen
  • Vitals (for example, blood pressure and pulse)
  • Strength, flexibility, and joints

If a child has a health condition that could potentially make it dangerous for them to participate in sports, a provider may be able to recommend certain accommodations to help ensure their safety. For example, children with asthma are often prescribed special inhalers for use during practice and games.

What Are Regular Physicals?

Regular physicals (sometimes referred to as “annual physicals” or “well-child visits”) are different from sports physicals. When compared to sports physicals, regular physicals tend to be more comprehensive, also taking into account a child’s developmental, emotional, and social health. During a regular physical, in addition to taking histories and conducting a physical examination, a provider may also:

  • Perform any necessary lab work
  • Review the child’s cognitive and social milestones
  • Conduct developmental and behavioral screening tests
  • Order any necessary vaccinations

The provider may also offer age-appropriate counseling. For instance, they may speak to adolescents about puberty, drug and alcohol use, and similar topics.

Are Both Covered by Insurance?

Unfortunately, sports physicals typically aren’t covered by insurance. This is because insurance companies generally cover only one physical examination per year, which would be your child’s regular physical. We recommend checking with your carrier to confirm exactly what is covered under your plan.

Where to Go for Walk-In Sports Physicals

Now that you know what to expect during your child’s sports physical, the next step will be figuring out where to go for the examination. Your first thought may be your child’s pediatrician, but you might have trouble securing an appointment before the deadline. At this time of the year, appointment slots tend to fill up quickly as parents try to get their children ready for the upcoming sports season.

If that ends up being the case for you, don’t despair—families in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York can turn to PhysicianOne Urgent Care for sports physicals. We’re one of the region’s top immediate care providers, treating patients 365 days per year during extended hours. We never require an appointment for our sports physicals, although you can certainly reserve a spot ahead of time, if desired. What’s more, if you end up having to pay out of pocket for your child’s sports physical, you’ll be glad to know that we offer a reasonable flat rate.

Click here to find the PhysicianOne Urgent Care location nearest you, or call us at 860-650-3848 with any questions.

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