Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sports Physicals: We can do better

Thousands of high school, college & university athletes are returning to campus this week and most of them are going to go through mass screening and testing for their Pre-Participation Exam (PPE/ Physicals). Depending on which state these athletes are in (USA) they may be subject to different rules and regulations for what must be included in the physical. Individual institutional requirements may also vary within a state depending on who is in charge of the sports medicine program and what research lines are currently in vogue at that institution.
Governing associations may add another layer of complexity to the paper trail. Most of these PPE's consist of check list(s) that meet legal requirements at best and add little value to efficiently identifying and categorizing athletes for future injury risk.

Currently there is little consensus in the sport medicine community about what should be (must be) included when determining the readiness of our athletes to begin/ or return to participation in competitive sports.
How do you answer these questions?:
             Who decides what constitutes a thorough Pre-Participation Physical?
             What objective tests and measures are included?
                   Which ones are meaningful? Which ones (risk factors for future injury) are modifiable?  
             When are physicals scheduled? When do we re-test prior to Return to Sport?
             Where do we conduct the testing/screening? Why?
             How does the information collected help the athlete, coach & medical staff?
             Why do we do what we do?
                   Does the PPE add value to our athletic program and sports medicine team?
                    Or does it just meet a requirement and drain the resources and energy of the staff?

I believe it is time for us to offer better than a check list to our athletes.

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