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Sanford East Mandan Clinic

What are sports physicals?

Dr. Terry Wolf
Terry Wolf, DO
A sports physical helps determine whether it’s safe for youth to participate in a particular sport. Sports physicals include two main parts: a look at the athlete’s medical history and the physical exam. In discussing an athlete’s medical history, a doctor will ask about past illnesses or injuries, allergies, serious medical conditions among family members and suspicious symptoms such as faintness, dizziness, chest pain or difficulty breathing. During the physical part of the exam, a doctor conducts a clothed exam, looking primarily for heart, lung and musculoskeletal problems.

How often do athletes need physicals?

Starting with the 2010—2011 school year, the North Dakota High School Activities Association will require athletes to have a physical done annually. An athlete must have a physical completed before practice for his or her particular sport begins.

Is it possible for a doctor to detect potentially serious conditions during a physical?

Yes. By looking at a patientís medical history, a doctor sometimes can find symptoms the athlete thinks are the result of working out or running a lot are really, in fact, signs of serious underlying medical problems. A lot of these athletes are going to be exerting themselves to the limit. With a thorough exam, a doctor has the opportunity to pick things up before itís too late.

Are all abnormal symptoms signs of potentially serious conditions?

No. They may also indicate smaller issues a doctor can help with such as proper nutrition and hydration. This knowledge can help an athlete improve his or her performance.

What else will a doctor address during a physical?

Along with the examination portion of the physical, the doctor will counsel the athlete on numerous issues of concern to junior high and high school students, such as risks associated with smoking, drugs, alcohol and sexual activity. At the appointment, an athlete has a chance to ask for advice about other issues for which he or she would not have made an appointment to discuss.

My children donít participate in athletics. Can routine visits to a doctor benefit them, as well?

Seeing a doctor every year in your adolescent years is a good idea. Even if a child is in good health, a doctor can always re-emphasize behavioral issues and check for normal development.

Dr. Terry Wolf is a family medicine physician at Sanford East Mandan Clinic. Dr. Wolf earned his medical degree at Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in East Lansing, Mich., and completed his residency and internship at Sparrow Hospital Family Practice in Lansing, Mich. In his free time, he enjoys baseball, softball, camping, fishing, running and golf. To request an appointment with Dr. Wolf, call (701) 667-5000 or visit

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