Why Your Child Needs More than a Sports Physical

sports physical for soccer players

Annual exams vs Sports physical

A common question pediatricians are asked is, “Why does my child need an annual pediatric well exam when they just had a school sports physical”?  It is an excellent question, with a very simple answer: The purpose of a school sports physical is to make sure that the child can safely participate in competitive athletic activities at school.  While an annual pediatric well exam consists of discussions about development, growth, academic achievement, safety, puberty, exercise, healthy lifestyles, and many other pertinent topics.  In fact, the annual pediatric well exam can work as a child’s school sports physical.  Under the Affordable Care Act, annual pediatric well exams are covered, so it should not cost your family anything out of pocket.

What will a pediatrician cover during an annual wellness check?

It is important for children to have an annual pediatric well exam every year because as children grow, different topics emerge that need to be discussed.  For example, in the elementary school years, we discuss growth, safety, development, school achievement, behavior and healthy lifestyles.  As children move to middle school, we will add puberty to the discussion.  In high school, we include topics relevant to teenagers such as distracted driving, smoking, alcohol, drugs, and sex.  Lastly at annual well visits, we commonly check vision, hearing, urine and blood work as needed.

At every annual pediatric well exam, we also ensure that every child has the correct vaccines recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and you child’s school.  Typically, kids get vaccines at 4 and 5 prior to beginning kindergarten, and then will receive additional vaccines in the preteen years starting at 10.  These vaccines will protect them through high school and beyond.

My neighbor is a doctor, can they sign off on the sports physical form?

Mellophone in marching band

While chiropractors and family friends who are physicians can sign off on a sports physical, it is generally not recommended by pediatricians.  A chiropractor does not have the proper training in picking up critical cardiac problems that can cause sudden death, and a family friend may not be properly trained in pediatrics to know what to ask and what to check on exam.  Your pediatrician also knows your child and family, and this relationship is valuable to openly discuss personal topics as described above.  Kids are not just little adults and deserve to be treated by a pediatric specialist.


Dr. Christopher Saenz is a pediatrician at ADC’s Steiner Ranch office (5145 FM 620 N, 78732).  He has been a board-certified pediatrician for over 16 years in traditional pediatric office practice and pediatric emergency medicine practice.  From 2003-2011, he served as team physician for the Texas A&M University Athletic Department covering their NCAA sports teams. ADC has four pediatric offices throughout Central Texas.  For more information, or to make an appointment call 512-901-1111.