As more and more schools and urgent care clinics offer “convenient” sports physicals, it is
important to us to explain to our patients the difference between a well child exam and a sports
physical. Many families believe that a sports physical is equivalent to a well child exam,
however, this is simply not true. The sports physical is designed to clear an athlete for
participation in sports or other physically strenuous activities while the well child exam
includes much more comprehensive care. Here are the differences….
A Sports Physical includes a physical examination and a brief discussion of the child’s
medical history. During this visit, the patient will NOT receive developmental assessments,
anticipatory guidance, or review of vaccine records. Compare that to a well child exam that
usually includes a complete physical examination, a review of the child’s medical history and
status of chronic conditions, weight, height and body mass index measurements and
percentiles. In addition, a discussion will take place regarding nutrition, sleep habits,
development (physical, cognitive, and social) along with counseling regarding health and
safety risks, and adolescent issues surrounding peer pressure, drugs, tobacco and alcohol.
These visits are the foundation for promoting continuity of care and a long-lasting relationship
for effective medical management and care. It is best practice to follow the American
Academy of Pediatrics Bright Future Schedule and content for yearly well child exams.
By: Courtney Dudley, MD - CTPCA Executive Board