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Family Focus: How to prepare for your child's sports physical

Physicals are required to play school sports and can help identify pre-existing conditions that could lead to injury.

TOLEDO, Ohio — As summer kicks into gear, it's never too early to look ahead to the coming school year, and for some parents, that means thinking about your child's sports physicals. 

Last summer, parents and students weren't gearing up for an in-person school year, but this year is different and student-athletes need to make sure they get to the doctor's office.

"For children, that's really one of our number one markers to look for any kind of disease progress or problems," Dr. Cathy Cantor said.

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Cantor is a pediatric specialist at Mercy Health. She said physicals help to identify pre-existing conditions that could lead to sports-related injuries.

"The pre-existing condition piece for sports is so important because the best predictor of future injuries is past injuries," Cantor said. "We're looking for pre-existing conditions such as concussions; any pre-existing conditions of stress fractures." 

Typically, athletic programs in schools require an annual physical before a student is allowed to play any sport.

During your visit, doctors will check your child's heart, lungs, stomach, ears, nose and throat. They'll also do a quick vision test and measure their height, weight and blood pressure.

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"Many times we will find some kiddos that have some little mildly elevated blood pressure that we have to address," Cantor said. "And if we can address it sooner rather than later, then certainly we're going to prevent future problems later in life."

If your child is nervous about seeing the doctor, Cantor said the best way to ease those fears, is to talk them through it ahead of time.

"I think just kind of walk them through and say, 'Hey this is what's going to happen. We're going to check-in, you're going to get your height and weight and vitals, they're going to do an exam and ask you a few questions,'" she said. "Just kind of walk them through that a little bit."

To make sure your child is ready to participate in school sports, the best time to get that physical from your family doctor is four to eight weeks before that sport's season is scheduled to begin.

"I think the greatest time is in June or July before school starts because usually, practice is starting the first week of Aug. for most high schools locally," Cantor said. 

Doctors say a yearly physical is good for all kids, not just those looking to become student-athletes.