Permission to Play, Doc?
Permission to Play, Doc?
Young football player drinking water

Summer is winding down, and that means fall sports practices are preparing to ramp up. Before your young athlete gets back in the game, a pre-participation physical exam can determine whether it’s medically safe for him or her to play.

You know how important it is for your child to have an annual wellness exam, but if he or she plays sports, a once-a-year pre-participation physical — also known as a sports physical — is equally essential.

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Sarah Kennedy, D.O. Sports Medicine Specialist

“Although cardiovascular abnormalities are a large part of the pre-participation history and physical, the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine has found accidents and mental health issues to be the leading cause of death in adolescent athletes,” adds Sarah Kennedy, D.O., primary care sports medicine physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Arlington and Sideline Orthopedics and Sports, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice. By screening for these kinds of issues, we may be able to educate and help prevent a catastrophic event.”

Wondering about the basics of a pre-participation physical? Consult the following primer before making your child’s exam appointment.

Who Needs an Exam?

Texas secondary schools require athletes to have a pre-participation physical exam and submit a form signed by a physician attesting to its completion to play sports. The No. 1 choice to conduct the exam is the physician who knows your child best: his or her pediatrician or primary care provider. If this physician is unavailable, a sports medicine physician is an excellent option.

What Does It Entail?

The key to the pre-participation physical is the health questionnaire you and your child will fill out beforehand, which will likely ask about his or her general and sports-specific medical history, family history and recent symptoms.

“The detailed history we get during a sports physical is designed to provide information about past injuries, concussions, current medical symptoms and conditions, allergies, and any contributing family history to help us recognize disabling or potentially life-threatening conditions,” Kennedy also notes.

If the physician notices an abnormality, he or she refers the athlete for further testing.

When’s the Best Time to Have One?

One word: Summer.

Kennedy recommends parents schedule their children’s sports physicals in early summer to allow for enough time to have further testing completed if needed.

If your child needs a sports physical, Texas Health can help. Visit to find a doctor who is right for your family.

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