Did you know that 62% of sports injuries occur in practice, not in competition (especially football, soccer, and basketball)? This is one reason why it’s required to have a physical exam turned in to your school district before the first day of practice.
Getting regular physical exams or check-ups is an important part of taking care of your health, as well as preventative care.
A physical is a comprehensive health assessment given by your health care practitioner. A physical generally only takes 20-30 minutes to complete.
Even though they are fairly routine procedures, physicals can often be the first step in detecting chronic diseases, preventing sports-related injuries, and other serious health problems.
Newport Urgent Care offers both school and sports (or “pre-participation evaluation”) physicals. In California, all children entering first grade must get a physical exam and have it on file with their school district in order to be eligible to attend school.
The State of California also requires that students get a sports physical every year in which they intend to play on a sports team through their school. Many summer camps, like those through the YMCA, also require campers to get physical exams.
Certain jobs may also require employees to get regular physicals, such as police officers.
What Does a Physical Exam Include
A comprehensive physical exam for school or sports in California should include the following:
- Bloodwork to detect TB, anemia, and anything needed to diagnose a condition that the physical exam brought to the surface
- Reviewing the patient’s medical history
- Assessing the patient’s body (taking their blood pressure, looking in their nose and throat, listening to their breathing, etc.)
- Getting any needed vaccinations
- Testing your reflexes
- Height and weight measurement (BMI)
- Oral health screening
- Reviewing the patient’s exercise routine and nutritional habits
- Assessing the patient’s mental and behavioral health (for example, having the patient fill out a form that would show if they exhibit signs of depression or suicide)
- Eye test
- Hearing test
- Scoliosis test
- Reviewing important information with the patient, for example, reminding sexually-active teens about STD prevention
- For children, the doctor will also be watching for signs of Attention Deficit Disorder and hyperactivity and see if the child is age-appropriate in their social interactions and so on
- The person completing the physical will most likely also need to sign some kind of waiver as part of the process (A primary care or urgent care doctor, nurse, or physician’s assistant can complete a physical exam)
Cost of a Physical Exam
Without insurance, a physical exam typically costs $50-$150. Sometimes who performs your exam (a doctor, a physician’s assistant, or a nurse) impacts the price.
Research indicates that yearly physicals from your primary care physician (PCP) usually average $106, whereas a physician’s assistant (PA) or nurse practitioner (NP) runs about $103 on average.
If you have insurance, the co-pay for a physical varies from $10-$50 usually. However, most insurance companies do not cover physical exams.
Things to Discuss During a Physical Exam
Telling your doctor or nurse about any changes in your health is imperative. Here are examples of the kind of things you should discuss with your doctor during a physical exam, regardless of whether the exam is for school, sports, work, or just a routine check-up:
- Any changes you’ve observed – from a funky toenail to having your first hot flash
- Appetite changes
- Mood changes
- Weight fluctuations
- New aches or pains
- Sleep disturbances
- New moles
- Any ill feelings, such as regular queasiness or headaches
- If you’ve started or stopped using tobacco, drugs, or alcohol
- You can even discuss a “gut feeling” that you might be experiencing a certain ailment with your doctor. There doesn’t even necessarily have to be a physical symptom you’ve observed.
- A sports physical will also include examining your flexibility, range of motion, and things specifically related to your sport.
Your doctor will most likely have you fill out a comprehensive questionnaire when you arrive for your physical exam. There are often so many questions that your doctor’s office might ask you to arrive 15 minutes early in order to have enough time to complete them before seeing the doctor.
This questionnaire can often jog your memory about any recent issues you’ve experienced. You can expect this questionnaire to ask you about the following:
- Any medications (over-the-counter or prescription) or vitamins you are taking
- Family medical history
- Your own medical history (surgeries, illnesses, injuries, or hospitalizations)
- On-going health problems you experience (whiplash, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, etc.)
- Specific medical issues that are directly linked to more serious problems like chest pains or numbness
What a Physical Can Help Detect
Physicals not only ensure you are safe to be at school, at work, or participating on your team, but they are also useful in detecting serious medical problems as early as possible. Some of the common conditions that can be detected with a thorough physical exam include:
- Certain kinds of cancer
- Sexually-transmitted diseases
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Eating disorders
- Neurological problems like Dementia
- Thyroid disease
- Hearing loss
- If the patient needs new glasses or a new glasses prescription
- Meniere’s disease
- Asthma or Chronic Pulmonary Disease
- Any loss of functioning in your arms, legs, or back (Note: even if your range of motion is limited, you may still be allowed to participate in sports. Your assessment will communicate to your coaches what you can and can not do.For example, a track athlete with debilitating shin splints may be told they are not allowed to compete in the hurdles or jumps, but other running events, which are less impactful, like the sprints and relays, are OK.)
This is an incomplete list because a physical exam can help detect literally an endless number of medical conditions. One of the most important things for getting the most out of a physical exam is telling your doctor or nurse about any changes you have noticed in your health, no matter how minor. Here are two examples:
- The patient, a 50-year-old man, told his doctor that he had been feeling really tired lately and that his left side hurt. The patient believed his left side hurt because he had a broken rib from a recent kickboxing tournament.He believed he was tired because he was 50 now and getting older. However, the doctor sent the patient in for an MRI and found out he had pancreatic cancer.As the pancreas is located on the left side of the body, that was the cause of his pain (not a broken rib). Cancer can be detected with symptoms as ambiguous and innocuous as feeling tired and having low-grade pain.
- The patient, a 25-year-old woman, told her doctor that her periods were getting very heavy and that her asthma was getting worse.The doctor sent her in for an ultrasound of her uterus and found that she had afibroid (non-cancerous growth) in her uterus 10cm x 8cm in size, which is like having two grapefruit in there.This was causing her heavy periods. Bloodwork the doctor ordered also confirmed that her heavy periods were making her anemic, which was the actual cause of her shortness of breath.She did not actually have asthma at all. Again, something as mundane as heavy periods can help a doctor very quickly detect a much larger, more serious health problem.
How To Prepare For A Physical
It’s helpful to wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing to a physical exam. If you can’t recall the name of any medication you are taking from memory, write down a list of all your medications (including vitamins and over-the-counter drugs). Bring this list to your physical.
Likewise, if you don’t know your biological family’s medical history, you can take some time to research it before the physical. If you have had a lot of surgeries or medical issues in the past and don’t recall all of the dates and procedure names, also research this and write it down in advance.
Medical history, both personal and familial, is a key tool in helping to diagnose and treat a wide range of medical problems. The more information your doctor has, the better. Be as honest and forthcoming as possible.
If you know that your doctor is going to have you get bloodwork or urinalysis done, ask whether it’s OK for you to eat or drink in advance. If you have just consumed the wrong thing before going to the lab, you might have to come back another time on an empty stomach.
Newport Urgent Care Can Help
If you need a school or sports physical, please consider Newport Urgent Care. Our physical exams are affordable, thorough, and meet all the California legal requirements for your school district.
Newport Urgent Care is at 1000 Bristol Street North #1B, Newport Beach, CA, 92660.
Give us a call at 949.832.6347 or 949.990.5051 to schedule your physical appointment today.
You do not need to walk in and wait in line. Booking an appointment online with us is another option. We look forward to serving you.