Healthy Athlete

Kathleen Harder-Brouwer, MD
Ravalli Family Medicine
411 West Main Street
Hamilton, MT 59840

Healthy Athlete
Well smoke has hit the Bitterroot Valley and this usually means it's August in Montana. It's time to start getting ready for that pesky back to school shopping and for many those fall sports get underway. The medical community of Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital will again be offering sports physicals this month to all the athletes of Ravalli County. What started as two doctors in the changing room of our local pool has developed into a program supported by the entire medical community and benefitting numerous schools. All the funds raised are returned to the local school in which each athlete attends.

The purpose of a sports physical is often misunderstood. Primarily, a sports physical is meant to try to identify an athlete who has a medical condition that might make it unsafe to participate in sports. Because of this purpose, there are many questions that need to be reviewed between the athlete and their parents. These questions appear on the first page of the sports physical form and should be completed before arrival for the physical by the student and parent together. A student will often not know of a family history that may be extremely important, especially with the heart and lung systems. We want to know if your athlete has ever experienced chest pain while being active? Have they ever passed out when active? Can they keep up with their peers? Has anyone in the family died at an earlier age of heart issues, particularly those who might have died during athletic participation? Positive responses to any of the questions on the form will be explored and a decision will be made on whether further evaluation is needed. The examination itself is relatively simple. At minimum the athlete should expect to have a check of their blood pressure, vision, height, weight, heart, lungs and large muscle groups. However, each provider may perform a slightly different exam based on the athlete.

It is important to remember that the sports physical is not that same as a yearly wellness exam for your child. A well child examination is a much more in depth examination that reviews a child's past history, growth and development, future health risks, immunizations and behavioral issues. If, as a parent, you want a more in depth exam, then a well child check at your provider's office is a much better choice over a sports physical. If your child suffers from a chronic condition such as asthma, a well child check can serve the dual purposes of allowing the provider to assess the child's health condition and complete the sports evaluation.

In recent years, some providers have began to offer an ECG as part of the sports physical. However, at this time, there is no recommendation for any type of noninvasive cardiac testing as part of a pre-participation examination. ECG tests will not always demonstrate an abnormality even if there is one. Also, they may have worrisome changes that in fact do not represent an abnormality of the heart. In those cases, unnecessary and costly tests are done for no reason and the athlete may miss participation without a valid reason. Accurate answers on the sports physical form, involvement of the parent and a cooperative athlete make the sports physical process safe, easy and reliable. We look forward to seeing the athletes of Ravalli County at this event and hope that all teams are successful in the upcoming season. Sports Physicals are being held on August 4 th and August 10th from 6pm to 7:30pm at the Marcus Daly Rehabilitation Center, visit for more information.

The community health column is brought to you this month by a partnership between Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital and Ravalli Family Medicine. For questions and or comments regarding this week's health column or request for a health column on a specific health topic, please contact Kathleen Harder-Brouwer, MD, c/o Ravalli Family Medicine, 411 West Main Street, Hamilton, MT 59840.


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