Parents might face one or both of these school requirements in the coming academic year, but are they the same thing?. Although they serve a similar core purpose, they are two different kinds of exams. What is the difference between a back to school physical and the sports physical? 

What is a Back to School Physical?

The back to school physical is basically the annual checkup that adults experience. The exam focuses on basic health but the exact evaluations may vary based on the age of the child. 

During this checkup, the medical staff will take the child’s vital signs like:

  • Blood pressure
  • Pulse
  • Weight
  • Height 
  • Body mass index
  • Respiration

They use these measurements to determine where the child falls related to the average for their peer group. For example, is the weight and height about average? 

Unusual vital signs also serve are warnings of yet undiagnosed illnesses such as obesity or high blood pressure. The earlier chronic problems are diagnosed the less risk there is of permanent damage to major organs like the heart and kidneys. 

A yearly exam allows the pediatrician or family doctor to evaluate vision, reflexes, joint health and hearing — problems that might affect a child’s performance in school. Something as simple as glasses can open up a whole new world. 

The practitioner will also check heart and lung function, lymph nodes, belly, nose, throat and skin for signs of illness. The exam will include an evaluation of spinal and muscular health, as well. 

During the physical, the doctor will go over vaccinations with parents to ensure they are up to date.  The staff will review medical history to make sure their records are current. During the appointment, you can also discuss behavior and developmental issues with the physician, too.

What Should Parents Bring to a Back to School Exam?

Parents will want to bring any relevant documentation with them such as immunization records. Also, compile a list of medications your child takes including prescription drugs and over-the-counter products like a multivitamin or pain reliever. 

What is a Sports Physical?

A sports physical isn’t as comprehensive as the back to school exam. The focus is on preventing injuries and ensuring the child is able to play a specific sport safely. 

As with the physical exam, the doctor will go over medical history with the parents. They will cover pre-existing conditions that make the game problematic, as well. For example, a child with severe asthma may have problems with outdoor sports like football or soccer. 

The exam will include an evaluation of the child’s current fitness level and may require tests to confirm bone health and strength. Whatever is necessary to ensure your child can play safely and avoid injury

Often doctors will talk about safety precautions like what protective equipment to wear during the sports exam. For high contact games, there may be a discussion of the risks of concussions and what to do if your child takes a hit to the head. 

What Should Parents Bring to a Sports Physical?

Plan to bring much of the same documentation necessary for a back to school exam such as immunization records. Often the exam is a requirement of the school to play in sports, so bring any authorization forms, as well. 

If your child needs one or both of these important exams, give Backfit Health + Spine a call today to make an appointment and feel free to ask about doing both at once to save time. Our primary care medical professionals are ready to help send your child off to another great year. 

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