Having these immunizations during a back-to-school physical provides an opportunity for a more thorough review of your children’s health. You also can learn about preventive medicine and other health matters that affect your child. When I conduct these examinations, I evaluate whether the child’s growth and development are progressing appropriately. As children approach their teens, I speak with the child alone and confidentially about the challenges and even dangers that come with being a teenager.
A regular physical exam also gives me time to inform parents and children about dangers that children might face. Inactivity from hours at a computer or playing video games plus a poor diet are the greatest contributors to obesity, the leading health concern for our children. Parents need to be more conscious of the many health issues that result from obesity, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
A back-to-school physical should be part of a child’s regular, preventive checkup. These allow me to monitor a child’s weight and alert parents and children when weight gain begins to exceed normal levels. Parents also must set an example and train children to practice a healthy diet and lifestyle.
All year, and especially as cold and flu season approaches, I teach children that they can prevent the spread of communicable diseases through proper hand washing and by not sneezing into a hand. To make children aware of where they spread their germs, I tell them that when you touch any surface with a hand on which you have sneezed, the infection remains on that surface for 72 hours. I also encourage all of my patients to get a flu shot.
Injuries as well as illness threaten children’s health. Concussion is one of the most devastating injuries that children and teens can suffer. The greatest concussion risk lies in contact collision sports, such as football, basketball, soccer, doubles tennis, boxing and wrestling. Car accidents also pose a risk of a serious concussion.
For reasons that are not fully understood, children take longer than adults to recover from a concussion. Evidence suggests that the developing brain is more sensitive to head trauma than the adult brain. This is why extra care must be taken with children to diagnose and treat concussions correctly.
In my practice, I give many sports physicals to ensure that a child is ready to play sports in the coming year. After reviewing the child’s family and personal medical histories, I evaluate any risk of serious injury from athletics. This exam also can help prevent further injury from any previous unhealed injuries. Another important component of the sports physical is checking the child’s blood pressure and other vital signs, which can reveal potential health risks.
During a sports physical I advise parents and children about staying healthy while participating in sports. Dehydration can cause serious harm. Coaches and parents must be able to recognize signs of dehydration on a hot day and be aware if a child is prone to dehydration. For example, athletes who carry the gene for sickle cell anemia can have a greater sensitivity to dehydration.
I urge parents and children to focus on the fun of participating, teamwork and competition. Remember that children are supposed to play football and play basketball. They can suffer psychological damage as well as physical injury when they concentrate entirely on winning and on their performance in a sport.
For young athletes and other physically active children, I strongly support cross training. The best way for a child to excel in one sport is to practice and develop skills needed in other sports. For example, a basketball player can improve hand-eye coordination by playing tennis. Concentrating on one sport alone can cause injury from overuse, especially in the growing athlete.
If your child needs a sports physical or a back-to-school exam and you do not have a regular physician, Northern Nevada Medical Group has physicians ready to provide that care. To schedule an appointment, call 352-5300.
Luis Palacio, MD, is a family medicine physician and the director of Sports Medicine at the Northern Nevada Medical Group. He earned his medical degree from Universidad Central Del Este, San Pedro de Macoris, in the Dominican Republic. Board certified in both family medicine and sports medicine, he completed his family medicine residency at Saint Elizabeth Hospital in Chicago and his sports medicine fellowship at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. Dr. Palacio speaks English and Spanish.