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What's the Difference Between a Sports Physical and an Annual Checkup?

There’s a lot to keep track of when it comes to your child’s health. Routine check-ups are an important part of managing their overall well-being, and if they play a sport, a sports physical helps make sure they’re healthy and prepared for the rigors of play.

While an annual checkup and a sports physical do cover similar aspects of your child’s health, each is a distinct visit with a specific purpose in safeguarding your child’s wellness. 

Dr. Margaret Lubega here at First Pediatric Care Center in Gastonia, North Carolina, provides both annual checkups and sports physicals. She wants you to know about each appointment and why your child probably needs both. 

The purpose of an annual checkup

The annual checkup is a comprehensive snapshot of your child’s health. These visits are sometimes called well-child visits or annual physicals. They are complete assessments that monitor your child’s overall well-being. 

These appointments typically happen once a year, allowing Dr. Lubega to track growth and development, administer vaccinations, and address any emerging health concerns. Annual checkups focus on preventive care so she can detect any potential issues and establish a baseline for your child's health.

Why my child needs a sports physical

About 3.5 million children and teens aged 14 and younger experience a sports injury each year. A sports physical is specifically geared towards assessing your child's fitness for participation in organized sports activities and helping them avoid getting injured. Your child’s team may require this exam before they can join a sports team or engage in certain activities at school.

While it involves some components similar to an annual checkup, the sports physical places a heightened emphasis on evaluating your child's physical readiness for sports and screens for conditions that might pose risks during athletic endeavors.

The key differences between a checkup and sports physical

The focus of the two examinations is different. An annual checkup has a big-picture focus, while a sports physical addresses more immediate concerns related to sports participation. 

At the annual checkup, Dr. Lubega performs a comprehensive exam and looks at general health, growth, and development. The annual checkup includes an in-depth review of your child's medical history, including family history, and discussions about lifestyle, nutrition, and emotional well-being.

The sports physical primarily evaluates your child's fitness for participation in sports, emphasizing cardiovascular health, muscular strength, and flexibility. Dr. Lubega performs a more targeted assessment, focusing on their ability to safely engage in sports, detecting any existing or potential issues that could be aggravated during physical activities.

If you’re not sure what type of physical your child needs, contact us at First Pediatric Care Center. In some cases, the annual check up is enough for casual sports and physical education. But if your child plays on a team that requires a sports physical or if your child is committed to a rigorous practice schedule, a sports physical may also be required. 

We are committed to supporting your child’s health. We work with you, your child, and their coaches to support wellness in every endeavor. Call today or use the online tool to schedule your visit.

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