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Student athlete exams now required annually
suspicious symptoms such as faintness,
dizziness, chest pain or difficulty breathing. While those symptoms can be a sign of a major illness, they can also
indicate smaller issues a doctor can help with.
The North Dakota High School Activities Association now requires student athletes to
complete a sports physical exam annually. The exams can be scheduled anytime between June 15 and before an athlete starts practice.
||When Terry Wolf, MD conducts
sports physical examinations,
he pays close attention to the information
the teenage athletes provide while talking
about their medical history.
“By looking at the patient’s medical
history, we sometimes can find symptoms
the athlete thinks are just the result of
working out or running a lot may, in fact,
be signs of serious underlying medical
problems,” said Dr. Wolf, a family medicine
physician at Sanford East Mandan Clinic. “While exercising can
cause fatigue or mild light-headedness,
if it’s happening frequently to an athlete
or to a greater extent than the athlete’s
peers, there might be something wrong.”
With that in mind, the North Dakota
High School Activities Association
(NDHSAA) has mandated that all students
wishing to participate in school-sponsored
sports must undergo a sports physical
annually starting with the 2010–2011
school year. Previously, athletes only
needed a physical every other year as
long as they remained healthy.
“During a physical, we screen them for
any obvious signs of potentially harmful
diseases,” Dr. Wolf said. “A lot of these
athletes are going to be exerting themselves
to the limit. With a thorough exam, we have
the apportunity to pick things up before it’s
Sports physicals include two main parts:
a look at the athlete’s medical history and
the physical exam.
In discussing the medical history, a doctor will ask an athlete about his
or her past illnesses or injuries, allergies, serious medical conditions among
other family members and
To meet the NDHSAA’s sports physical requirement, an athlete’s physical
must take place June 15 or later and must be completed before the athlete’s
Proper nutrition and hydration may be discussed, including supplements,”
Dr. Wolf said. “This knowledge can help the athletes improve their
During the physical part of the exam, a doctor conducts a clothed exam,
looking primarily for heart, lung and musculoskeletal problems.
On top of that, 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.
“Seeing a doctor every year in your adolescent years is a good idea,”
Dr. Wolf said. “We can always re-emphasize the behavioral issues and
check for normal development.”
Terry Wolf, MD
Click here for more information about sports physicals at Sanford Health.