What is a Sports Physical Exam Checklist?

Whether participating in a social sport, school event, or professional contest, most athletes will complete a sports physical examination at one stage. Like an annual physical examination, sports physical examinations involve assessing overall health, including identifying any risks that may predispose an athlete to injury or preclude safe sports participation.

The way a sport physical is conducted can vary depending on a range of factors, such as the type of sport and level of physical activity. However, the purpose remains to assess overall health and ability to participate in sport, usually examining the following safely:

  • Previous medical history: Including current medications, last musculoskeletal injuries, medical problems, and family medical history.
  • General health screening: Including standard measurements such as blood pressure, age, and height.
  • Cardiovascular screening: Assessing blood pressure, any cardiac abnormalities, and risks for chronic illness.
  • Neurologic screening: Assess the nervous system, completing sensory tests, range of motion, strength, and stability.
  • Nutritional assessment: This assesses the individual's current dietary management strategies, nutritional status, and nutritional requirements.
  • Heat/hydration assessment: This screens for the individual's current hydration status and any risk factors for developing heat-related illness or dehydration.
  • Mental health screening: It is essential to consider mental health status for optimal health and well-being. This involves assessing the individual for any symptoms of mental health issues, poor sleep, fatigue, concentration, low mood, and other mental health factors that may impose on their overall health.

We have constructed the Sports Physical Exam Checklist to simplify the process for athletes and health practitioners. The checklist breaks down the examination process into more straightforward, manageable steps that ensure a thorough assessment. Using the resource, practitioners can tick off the steps and make notes of any important information, allowing for practical physical exams.

Printable Sports Physical Exam Checklist

Download this Sports Physical Exam Checklist for healthcare providers to conduct effective sports physicals, helping assess an athlete's health status and determine any risks of injury or illness that may preclude their ability to participate.

How do you use a Sports Physical Exam Checklist?

The Sports Physical Exam Checklist is an invaluable resource for healthcare providers to conduct effective sports physicals, helping assess an athlete's health status and determine any risks of injury or illness that may preclude their ability to participate. To show you how this works, we have broken down the process into the following steps:

Step 1: Access the checklist

Begin by obtaining the free Sports Physical Exam Checklist here, or download the PDF version for a printable, physical copy using the following link:

Download the free Sport Physical Exam Checklist PDF here.

Step 2: Review medical history

Begin the examination process by reviewing the patient’s medical history. This can be done using a sports physical form.

Step 3: Complete a physical examination

Using our checklist, complete a full physical examination of the individual, including a general health screening, cardiovascular screening, and neurologic screening. Depending on the results, you may require additional testing to evaluate the athlete's condition further.

Step 4: Nutritional assessment

Facilitate conversation about the individual's nutrition status, diet, allergies, and preferences. You may benefit from our nutrition assessment form if you require a more thorough analysis of their dietary management.

Step 5: Heat and hydration assessment

Assess the individual's current hydration practices and review their medical history to determine whether they are at risk of heat illness or dehydration.

Step 6: Mental health screening

Complete a mental health screening, assessing the individual's current mental health status and any challenges they face regarding their sleep, motivation, focus, self-esteem, and other relevant factors.

Step 7: Documentation and further assessment

Once completed, it is essential to document the results and any additional information. In this process, further testing or follow-up procedures may be required.

Sports Physical Exam Checklist example (sample)

The Sports Physical Exam Checklist is a tool that a healthcare provider can quickly implement into their protocols to ensure a practical evaluation. We have created an example to demonstrate how the checklist may operate. The example uses fictional information regarding a young athlete completing their preparticipation physical evaluation, which is required for sports participation.

It is recommended that this resource be used to show how the checklist can be used during a sports physical exam. However, given that sports physicals may differ slightly with factors such as the type of sport, age, or gender, it should only be used as a reference.

You can find the example using the following link:

Download our free Sports Physical Exam Checklist example here:

Sports Physical Exam Checklist example (sample)

Results from Sports Physical Exam

The results following a sports physical are multi-faceted and may differ among athletes depending on various factors. These may include exercise intensity, family history, previous musculoskeletal injury, and medical conditions. Nevertheless, the following are some typical results and what they may mean for the athlete:

Good health

Your assessment results may indicate that you are in good health, with all vital systems functioning well, and family and personal history showing little risks for non-participation. In this instance, athletes may be encouraged to continue with their current behaviors regarding exercise and recovering well with their nutritional and hydration habits.

Potential health concerns

Some athletes may show risks for joint injuries or medical concerns for their well-being. This may include having chest pain or a family medical history of mitral valve prolapse that may predispose the individual to injury or illness following exercise. Health practitioners may recommend other tests to further asses the athlete for risk factors or run diagnostic procedures for health issues.

Following the tests, the health professional may devise a treatment plan or intervention to support the athlete back to good health and recommend further exercises or strategies to prevent any progressions for poor health.

Referrals and recommendations

Some athletes may be identified for certain risk factors and require further assessment following examination. For instance, older athletes may face risks related to the cardiovascular system, such as high blood pressure, and need follow-up tests throughout the sporting season for early detection and treatment.

Athletes who pose risks of developing or have a family history of specific conditions may be referred to a specialist for further diagnostics. This is typically the case for individuals at risk of developing chronic illnesses, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, that can be detrimental to health and cause sudden death in some cases.

Benefits of a Sports Physical Exam Checklist

Awareness and promotion of healthy habits

The basis of a sports physical examination takes a holistic approach to look at the various aspects of the athlete's life that may propose risks or issues to health. If, for some reason, an athlete is not cleared or the practitioner identifies any risks in a particular aspect of health, they can then provide recommendations and advice to improve these.

This may involve an introduction of healthier habits or referrals for specialized practitioners who may prescribe safer training methods to support optimal performance without injury.

Mitigate injuries

After examining the athlete's family history, personal history, and physical examination, the healthcare provider may identify potential risks of injury. For example, an athlete may present issues with range of motion in the rotator cuff, which could lead to shoulder issues in the future. Healthcare providers can then voice these to the athletes and their coaches, who can mitigate this by strengthening specific structures or avoiding movements that may cause harm.

Early detection of health issues

Appraisal of the individual's genetic history and current health status may highlight health issues, such as cardiovascular or respiratory issues. For instance, a young athlete may have trouble breathing during exercise at times and may be diagnosed with asthma. This can help prevent the progression of health conditions, enhancing long-term health and healthy well-being.

What can I expect during a sports physical exam?
What can I expect during a sports physical exam?

Commonly asked questions

What can I expect during a sports physical exam?

During a sports physical exam, a medical professional or sports physician may collect information regarding your previous medical history using a sports physical form. A physical exam will then follow this to determine your current health status and identify any risks or concerns that may preclude your participation.

How often is a sports physical exam conducted?

A sports physical exam is usually conducted on an annual basis. However, individuals with heightened risks of developing severe illness or injury may require these more frequently.

How long does a physical exam take?

A physical exam can typically be completed between 30 to 45 minutes. However, this can vary depending on the sport, the individual's health status, and whether further testing is required.

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