Friends enjoying a game of basketball.

What Is the Difference Between a Sports Physical and a Wellness Checkup?

By Dr. Sky Izaddoost
CHRISTUS Children’s
Alon Town Centre

Summer camp time. Sports physical time. Every year, parents flood medical offices for a last minute sports physical so their child can participate in team sports at school or go to summer camp. Most walk-in clinics charge about $50 for a sports physical.

Parents gladly pay the money, not realizing that their insurance covers an annual well-child checkup, which would include the sports physical—without a co-pay in most cases.

What is the difference between the two?

Sports Physical

A sports physical is an abbreviated well-child checkup. The physician or practitioner is only looking for reasons that your child would not be able to participate in sports or go away to summer camp. They check old injuries like previously broken bones to make sure they have healed, determine if chronic medical conditions like asthma should limit play, and screen for conditions that could potentially cause death with exercise like heart conditions.

There is no further management. The physical exam is also shortened, looking only for conditions that would affect play.

Annual Well-Child Checkup

An annual well-child checkup covers everything. Everything listed above and much more. We check your child to make sure they are growing and gaining weight appropriately. We monitor development and puberty status. We ensure vaccines are up to date. We can screen for diseases that may run in your family.

Your primary care doctor knows more about your child and their history than a one-time, walk-in clinical practice would know.

We discuss safety and bullying — ways to prevent getting bullied and ways to stop the bullying of someone else. If you think your high schooler has not been approached by others about drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes, your teen definitely needs a well-child checkup. If you have only talked with your child about puberty on a single occasion, your teen may have questions their primary care doctor can answer. Your child may be getting pressured into trying marijuana by friends.

Your child could be getting pressured into having sex. Yes, we discuss sexual orientation and sex, too. Sex has become such a taboo topic that parents don’t always want to talk about, and worse, neither do our kids. It is so important that our kids know how to protect themselves and feel comfortable talking to someone they trust about sex. It is even more important for each child to know how to avoid situations where they could be in danger and sexually victimized.

In an effort to show independence, some kids may find themselves in a precarious situation. They need to know what to do. They need to know what to avoid. Wellness checkups are a great time to ask embarrassing questions knowing you will get a candid, factual answer.

Finally, I love discussing life goals, career goals, and ways to help kids get into college. It helps parents know that at any stage in the game, the ultimate goal is to make sure our kids do better and know more than we did at that age. This way their life may be easier than ours.

By getting only an annual sports physical, you are short changing your child’s health. Well-child checkups are an important mile marker to make sure that your child is in excellent health and anticipating things that may occur in the upcoming year.

To find a primary care pediatrician for your child, please visit this page.

About Dr. Sky
Dr. Shahed Izaddoost, known as “Dr. Sky,” received a Bachelor of Arts degree in biochemistry from Rice University in Houston and received her medical degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Dr. Sky completed her residency training at the University of Texas in Houston Pediatric Residency Program. She strives to promote the health and healing of children, while creating a relaxed atmosphere that promotes communication, education, and a touch of fun. Dr. Sky is also board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. For fun, Dr. Sky likes to do TaeKwanDo with her daughter, fish, and laugh with her kids.