By Dirk Steinert, MD – Internal Medicine & Pediatrics, Columbia St. Mary’s Health System; Medical Director & Advisor, Mequon-Thiensville School District
My children are planning to participate in athletics at their schools. They’re all healthy, so why do I have to go to the trouble of getting a WIAA sports physical?
In the busy life of a parent, it’s easy to think that sports physicals are an unnecessary nuisance. These physicals are important for two reasons: First, kids’ bodies work hard – often very hard – in competitive sports. Ensuring they’re physically ready for this exertion is critical. Second, these physicals are a chance for you and your medical provider to learn if your child is facing any of the health issues sometimes found in teens and pre-teens – everything from acne to depression.
WIAA physicals identify kids who are at risk for injury, illness or even sudden death during physical activity. The most common sports injuries are bruises, sprains and broken bones. WIAA physicals evaluate the musculoskeletal system to ensure kids’ bones and muscles are up to the challenge of competitive sports.
The cardiopulmonary system is also closely evaluated during WIAA physicals. Tragically, some children die unexpectedly each year while participating in athletics, and the majority of these deaths are cardiac-related. The most common cause of sudden death is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition that often has few, if any, symptoms. Many parents don’t know their child has this condition until it’s too late. A WIAA physical can help screen for this and other dangerous cardiovascular conditions.
Most kids are healthy enough to participate in sports programs. Even if your child does have a condition that prevents him or her from competing in their chosen sport, health professionals can guide them to other sports that will be safe for them.
There are other reasons WIAA physicals are important. Since most teens appear healthy, many common conditions of adolescence are often overlooked. Also, because teens’ bodies are changing so quickly, they sometimes develop health concerns that parents aren’t aware of almost overnight. These can include everything from excessive stress to eating disorders to puberty-related issues. Again, most kids are healthy; but the WIAA physical is a great opportunity to make sure there are no health problems that you, or your child, have overlooked. In addition, if your child needs his or her immunizations updated, this can be done during the sports physical, as well.
Don’t know where to take your kids for their physicals? The Columbia St. Mary’s Germantown Clinic has several physicians, including myself, who are specialists in both internal medicine and pediatrics. An “IM/Peds” physician is specially equipped to handle the medical issues of kids as they transition from childhood to adulthood. We can be reached at (262) 250-7800.
Need a copy of the WIAA physical form? Visit the WIAA website at www.wiaawi.org.