The Cincinnati Pediatric Society is an organization of 306 pediatricians and pediatric subspecialists in the greater Cincinnati area. We are concerned because some schools and coaches are recommending that children and teens get sports physicals in places other than their medical homes.
Several years ago, pediatricians across the country successfully promoted legislation mandating a pre-participation physical to detect serious conditions and injuries before young athletes start practice. Pediatricians also stated that the “sports physical” should be part of routine preventive care conducted in a medical home, a place where the child has a continuous longitudinal relationship with a primary care provider.
Because it is a preventive well care visit, the sports physical in a pediatrician’s office encompasses screening for behavioral and mental health problems; learning difficulties; tobacco, alcohol, and substance use; social problems; and sexual activity. At this visit, pediatricians also monitor growth and development; conduct a comprehensive physical examination; address previous and current medical problems; update immunizations; perform recommended screening tests; and give appropriate anticipatory guidance. Preventive care is now covered without deductibles or co-payments by most insurance plans. There is usually no charge for these preventive visits in the pediatrician’s office.
The sports physical outside the medical home is often a cursory exam performed without the child’s complete medical history and often without a parent. It may be done in a gym or in a retail-based health center. There is a fee. The preventive care issues mentioned above are rarely addressed. There is little to no communication back to the medical home. There is no anticipation of a future relationship. When children get this kind of physical, some parents don’t see a need for another visit to the medical home, even if their child has a chronic medical issue. Nevertheless, there has been a disturbing and increasing trend in our community for youth to get sports physicals in these settings. Many coaches and teachers are fostering this trend by promoting places that offer these types of quick walk-in visits.
Pediatricians encourage physical activity for all children, especially given the rising epidemic of childhood obesity. We believe that youth involvement in sports fosters physical fitness, improves self-esteem, and promotes teamwork. We also believe that children deserve quality health care. Those entrusted with responsibility for our children, like pediatricians, teachers, and coaches, should never promote convenience over quality. The children in our community deserve the best, and not what is most expedient.
We ask that you support the best interest of the child by encouraging sports physicals by the child’s physician in the child’s medical home. Please call the office at 859-212-4567 to schedule your child’s sports physical. We have availability anytime during the week and also on Saturdays.