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Do you have a fall athlete? Now’s the time for sports physicals

Pediatrician Obehi Okojie, DO, at New Ulm Medical Center Clinic.

Sports physicals are required in Minnesota for all school athletes starting in seventh grade — and sometimes even in sixth. Check with your school about its policy.

There’s a distinction. A sports physical is not as comprehensive as an annual physical, although it can be scheduled at the same time with your child’s pediatrician or primary care doctor. Be sure to let the clinic scheduler know you also need a sports physical when you schedule your child’s annual physical. Plus, a comprehensive annual physical is especially important if your child has been diagnosed with asthma, a heart condition, diabetes, epilepsy or other diagnosis that may limit sports participation.

What happens in a sports physical exam?

New Ulm Medical Center pediatrician Obehi Okojie, DO, explained that during sports physicals, she typically looks at a child’s health history, including major illnesses, surgeries and past injuries such as concussions and broken bones.

“I will also ask about heart health and the family’s heart health history,” said Okojie. “For example, I want to know if your child has ever experienced feeling lightheaded, shortness of breath or had chest tightness during exercise.”

Parents and guardians must be present during the physical with children under age 18. During the physical exam, the physician will also record your child’s height, weight, blood pressure and pulse, and check the heart, lungs, stomach, ears, nose and throat.

Explained Okojie, “I’ll also check their muscles and bones and evaluate their posture, joint range, strength and flexibility.”

Where can I get a copy of the Sports Qualifying Physical Exam Clearance Form?

Download a copy of the Minnesota High School League’s Sports Qualifying Physical Exam Clearance Form at mshsl.org. Fill out the top and physical history sections of the form, and bring it with you to the sports physical appointment. Your pediatrician or primary care doctor should complete the rest. Turn in the completed form to your school. High school athletes will need to have a new sports physical and completed form on file every three years. Also keep a copy for your records.

To get your sports physical or annual exam, visit allinahealth.org/newulmclinic to find a provider or call 507-217-5011 to set up an appointment.