Athletes, get a thorough physical before getting physical

School athletes heading back to the fields and courts are often required to get only a cursory participation medical review. But more thorough examinations may be appropriate, particularly for advanced athletes and for those who have suffered injuries during previous seasons.

Dr. Robert Dimeff, director of primary care sports medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says a full history and exam can help detect problems early, help avoid inflaming old injuries and establish critical baseline information in case of concussions or other injuries.

Consider the following screening and baseline tests:

  • A routine musculoskeletal screening exam to evaluate injuries that may not have fully resolved from previous seasons or that occurred during the summer, such as an ankle sprain or shoulder instability.
  • Baseline computerized neuropsychological testing programs, such as ImPACT, HeadMinder or CogSport, for athletes participating in contact sports like football, soccer or hockey or for those who may have had a previous concussion, may aid in treating concussion assessment and management.
  • Vision screenings to identify the need for corrective or protective lenses.

It’s important to review weight, nutrition, supplements and off-season training with your physician and mention any new medical diseases, medications or surgeries since last year to determine if there are special requirements. Make sure immunizations are up to date, including tetanus.

In addition to the standard gear, consider new custom bilaminate mouth guards to protect teeth during contact and projectile sports.

“Be sure to pay attention to any new signs of cardiopulmonary disease and tell your doctor about them,” Dr. Dimeff says.

Chest pain, pressure or tightness, shortness of breath, palpitations, fainting or near fainting, wheezing or coughing during or after exercise may suggest heart or lung disease that may require further evaluation and treatment, he said. Also tell your doctor about any family history, such as family members with early cardiac disease, Marfan syndrome or sudden cardiac death, particularly in relatives younger than 50.


Media Contact: Russell Rian

Return to September 2010 News Tips