Does Your Child Need A Sports Physical Before School Starts?

kids sports playing basketball


As back-to-school time approaches, many families are considering having their child join a school sports team. And while everyone knows that playing sports helps keep kids fit, encourages teamwork, and fosters lifelong friendships, some parents might not understand why it is important to get a sports physical at the beginning of the season – even if their child appears perfectly healthy.

Pre-participation sport physicals are required by Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) and are intended to identify children who may be at risk while playing sports. Student-athletes must undergo an annual sports physical prior to attending their first practice.

Importance of a Physical

The primary goal of the sports physical is to help identify any pre-existing medical conditions that may be worsened by participating in sports. The physical exam may detect conditions that make the student-athlete more likely to suffer illness or injury playing sports, allowing parents to make informed decisions regarding their participation in athletics. In addition, student-athletes with identified pre-existing conditions may be able work with their doctor to develop strategies to prevent injuries should they decide to participate in athletics.

Medical clearance to participate in sports is determined following a physical exam that typically focuses on the cardiovascular, neurologic, and musculoskeletal systems. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the exam include a complete medical history and physical component, including measuring blood pressure, listening to the heart while lying and standing, and assessment of medical history. This medical history may indicate increased risk from participation in sports including symptoms occurring upon exertion, a history of heart murmur or high blood pressure and significant family history of premature death or disability.

OCPS Athletics

Students who plan to participate in OCPS athletics programs must complete a physical each year. To find the required forms, visit the Orange County Public Schools website, click on the “Athletics” link, then look for the drop-down menu that reads “Sports Physicals.”

Also, if your child is in high school, electrocardiograms (ECG) are required of all high school student-athletes prior to the start of their athletic season. ECG screenings help identify athletes who are at risk for sudden cardiac arrest, which is the leading cause of death in athletics. ECGs will be offered on high school campuses through local medical providers and organizations.

Finally, if your child is new to OCPS they will need a current vaccination record on file and proof of a physical conducted by a U.S. doctor within a year of enrollment (first day of entry at school).

If you need financial assistance to complete a physical or other family health care needs, please visit: or

Make it a great school year, be safe and stay healthy!


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Written by Kimbra Hennessy

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