Sports Physicals Are About More than Sports

Whether it’s a staycation or an exciting family trip to the beach or to see family, spring break provides a much-deserved break for students and educators alike. Still, classes will soon be back in session as we embark on the final push to the end of extracurricular season and school year.

As teachers and administrators have their sights set on year-end testing and graduation season, some athletic directors, band directors, and other leaders already have an eye on the 23/24 school year because … that’s right … it’s sports physicals season, too!

Why do most students in school-sponsored extracurriculars need an annual sports physical?

Sports physicals are often state-required for sports, band, dance, and theater because these important healthcare services – which are different from an annual physical with your pediatrician or doctor – ensure that students are medically ready to take part in their favorite activities.

Sports physicals allow medical providers another important opportunity, in addition to regular recommend provider visits, to identify and prevent potential problems that can negatively impact a student’s ability to succeed in their favorite activity.

“With the rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, and other conditions on the rise in children and adolescents, a wellness exam like a school sports participation physicals offer an opportunity for kids to access health care,” said L Gordon Moore, Goodside Health Chief Medical Officer.

Before looking at the fundamental importance of a sports physical – also commonly known as a preparticipation physical exam, or PPE – let’s take a closer look at the wide-ranging immediate and continuing benefits students can realize when they take part in their favorite extracurricular activities. 

It’s About Much More than Wins and Losses

According to a 2020 report from the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, youth that play sports are positively impacted mentally, socially, and physically as well as academically.1

The study, Benefits of Youth Sports, shows students that take part in sports may experience reduced anxiety, depression, and stress as well as a reduced likelihood to exhibit riskier behaviors.ibid

Conversely, youth sports also lead to increased self-esteem, creativity, and cognitive performance while paving the way for long-term enjoyment of physical activities and healthier life-long behaviors that come from it.ibid

Teamwork and group participation are key ingredients for many of these positive, long-term outcomes. When students engage with their peers, educators, coaches, and mentors – when compared to those that don’t – they have more opportunities to engage socially and learn productive behaviors that translate directly to improved academic achievement and important life-long skills.

Another study from the National Academy of Sciences suggests that math and reading are the school subjects most impacted by physical activities, such as youth sports (as well as recess and other after-school activities, too).2

What’s Included in a Standard Sports Physical?

Millions of students complete a sports physical across the nation each year, and the standard sports preparticipation physical includes evaluating a student’s:

  • Medical history
  • Vitals, like height, weight, blood pressure, and pulse
  • Eye exam and vision check
  • Physical exam, including checking strength and identifying any musculoskeletal limitations

While sports physicals have standardized components to establish a baseline on which vitals and measurables can be equitably evaluated, not every sports physical is made exactly equal.

Like Goodside Health and it’s SportsPhysicals+ program, more sports physicals are also incorporating other services that seek to help establish even more positive academic and health outcomes. Nutritional counseling, mental health assessments, and tobacco checks are among the other services that students, families, and schools can benefit from when administered as part of the annual sports physical. 

About Goodside Health

Goodside Health is advancing the delivery of pediatric care by partnering with communities to provide access to telehealth, mental health, and well-care services at school, at home, and in the clinic. Relentless advocates for expanding access to care and promoting health equity, Goodside Health leverages a Whole-Child Approach to care and lives our mission of closing gaps in children’s healthcare through innovation and execution. To learn more about Goodside Health, please visit

  1. President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition Science Board. Benefits of Youth Sports. September 17, 2020. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  2. Committee on Physical Activity and Physical Education in the School Environment Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, Kohl, Cook. Physical Activity, Fitness, and Physical Education: Effects on Academic Performance. 2013. National Academy of Sciences.