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How is a Well-Child Exam Different from an Athletic Physical?

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  • Written By: Myrtue Medical Center
How is a Well-Child Exam Different from an Athletic Physical?

girl stretchingChildhood is a time of rapid growth and change. The Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) developed a set of comprehensive health guidelines for well-child care, known as the “periodicity schedule.” It is a schedule of screenings and assessments recommended at each well-child visit from infancy through adolescence which includes children up to age 18.

If your child is in grades 7-12 and wants to participate in sports or other activities, they are required to have an Athletic Pre-Participation form completed by a medical provider. This form can be completed during either a well-child exam or an athletic physical. So, how do Well-Child exams compare to Athletic Physicals? A well-child annual visit is similar to the Athletic Physical, but much more comprehensive.

An Athletic Physical usually includes a physical examination and a brief examination of child’s medical history. The Athletic Physical is also a time to ensure your child is current on his or her vaccinations. Most schools require children to be vaccinated in order to attend classes. What is not included in a sports physical are developmental histories, long-term health concerns and risk factors and advice for developing a healthy lifestyle.

A Well-Child Exam is a schedule of screenings and assessments recommended from infancy through adolescence. “Well-child visits are also key times for communication with your practitioner,” said Dr. Markham. “We talk about normal childhood development, nutrition, sleep, safety, and healthy options for your child. Talking about ways to improve care and prevent problems helps keep your child healthy.” A well-child check is generally covered 100% by most insurance companies, with no co-pay. These exams are generally covered on a once yearly basis and allows the practitioner more time with your child. It also allows the practitioner a chance to further address any developmental, emotional, or social concerns with the child and parent.

As children become teens and begin to face new social and physical issues, a well-child annual visit gives them an opportunity to discuss topics they may not feel comfortable discussing with their parents, topics like drugs, smoking, alcohol, sex, and sexually-transmitted diseases. A doctor’s insight on these subjects can provide another point of view and guidance in a child’s life.

Here are a few things parents can do to make the well-child visit more productive:

  • Take note of any odd or unusual behavior you have noticed in your child. Family physicians have a great deal of experience with children at each stage of development and can often offer professional insight into whether or not you should be concerned about particular behaviors in your child.
  • Sit down ahead of time with your child to prepare a list of questions for your doctor. You can cover topics ranging from nutrition to emotional issues, to sports injuries, or just odd aches or pains.
  • Be sure to bring any health documentation you have received from your child’s school that needs to be completed for sports, school-related trips or anything else. Schools will provide a list of vaccinations and other requirements of their students.

A well-child annual visit includes the following:

  • Vital Sign Checks. Vital signs are checked by reading blood pressure and checking heart and respiratory rates. Blood pressure should be checked at least once every year unless there is something in your child’s history to indicate otherwise. It is possible for even young children to have hypertension so regular blood pressure checks should begin at age 3.
  • Updated Health History and Tracking Growth. Your doctor will want to know of any updates and changes in your health to add to your chart and history. Talk with your doctor about your child’s development. You can discuss your child’s milestones, social behaviors and learning, sleeping habits and development behavior.
  • Physical Exam. Your doctor will visually check your appearance for signs of any potential conditions. They will check the abdomen, eyes, head, chest, hands and wrists, musculoskeletal system and nervous system functions such as walking and speech. They will also examine the ears, eyes, nose, throat, heart, and lungs. This exam also includes touching parts of your body to feel for abnormalities – abdomen, skin, hair, and nails, possibly genitalia and rectum, and testing your reflexes and motor functions.
  • Team Approach. Regular well-child visits create strong, trustworthy relationships among your practitioner, parent and child. This team approach helps in the development of optimal physical, mental and social health of your child.

Is the Athletic Physical Covered by Insurance?

The Athletic Physicals are an out of pocket expense – meaning no insurance claim is filed. However, the Well-Child yearly visits are reimbursed by insurance, typically with no co-pay. And the Athletic Pre-Participation form can be completed at the time of your regular well-child exam. If you need to have an Athletic Pre-Participation form filled out and your child has already had a yearly physical examination in the past 12 months, bring the form in and your provider will complete it.

We are proud of our medical practitioners, leadership, and staff who have dedicated their lives to delivering the utmost quality of healthcare for all who walk through our doors. We want your child to be as healthy as possible. Myrtue Medical Center is committed to you, your family and the health of our community. Please visit our website or contact us at 712.755.5161.