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Community Advocacy Organization

Well-Child Visits and Sports Physicals: Does My Child Need Both?

Photo courtesy of McLaren

Many parents believe that well-child visits and sports physicals are the same; however, this is

not the case. Both exams are crucial aspects of caring for your child’s health but are needed for different situations.

“The main difference between a sports physical and well-child visit is the goal of the visit,” said David Pohl, DO, a primary care physician at McLaren Greater Lansing Family Medicine– North.

“During a well-child visit, we are trying to evaluate all areas of your child’s health. This includes their development, growth, diet, sleep, immunization records, and other preventative health measures. During a sports physical, we are determining your child’s fitness and safety to participate in sports.” In many cases, your child's sports physical can be scheduled as a part of their well-child visit and can be done in one visit. As your child grows, their body undergo many changes, and it is important to monitor these changes to know if development is occurring at a normal rate.

“During a well-child visit, we measure the height and weight of all children. For infants, the

circumference of their heads is measured to assess how their bodies are growing. Specific tests done at a well-child visit will depend on their age and family history,” said Dr. Pohl. “We will often check blood counts and lead levels for one-year-old infants and cholesterol panels in older children.” The need for a sports physical will depend on whether your child participates in any organized sports. Sports physicals should be scheduled at least six weeks prior to the start of your child’s sports season. They are typically good for one year and will be needed for every sports season to ensure the health and well-being of your child on and off the field. For specifics, it is best to check with your child’s school or league.

“During a sports physical, we focus more on the heart, lungs, muscles, and joints. We assess

their range of motion, strength, stability, and coordination. The history is focused on previous

athletics and family history of heart disease. We do not assess brain development, order blood work, or give immunizations for a sports physical,” said Dr. Pohl.

Keeping up to date with annual visits is important to a child’s development. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions on what your child may need.

A visit to the McLaren website can also help locate a facility and doctor of your choice.

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