by Kelli Ostermann, MD,
pediatrician, Winona Health
It’s that time of the year again — time to start thinking about the need for students to get their sports physicals, well checkups and vaccines for their next school year.
Here is some important information:
• Sports physicals: The Minnesota State High School League requires sports physicals every three years starting in seventh grade for all athletes participating in school sports. Athletes cannot begin tryouts or practice until the school receives the forms. Some organizations in our community also require sports physicals as young as age 10 years of age.
• Well child/teen checkups: All children over the age of three years are recommended to have a well child/teen checkup yearly.
• Two for one: The providers at Winona Health recommend sports physicals be done as part of the well child/teen checkup. This makes sense because insurance providers are required to pay for preventive annual well checkups, but they often do not cover sports physicals if done at a separate visit. Other advantages of combining a sports physical with a well checkup is that we can also review any chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, etc.), refill medications, fill out any needed forms (medications at school forms or forms for camp, etc.), and provide any needed vaccines.
• Vaccines: Vaccines are needed before kindergarten (four years of age and older), seventh grade (11 and older) and at age 16. COVID-19 vaccines are also available for students 12 and older.
• Shot worries: The Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine clinic has a few devices that are designed to help minimize the discomfort from getting shots. So, teens, please don’t worry too much about the shots, just ask us about buzzy or the shot blocker.
Not that darn virus again: The COVID-19 pandemic has also resulted in some unique considerations for athletes this year. If your child has had a positive COVID-19 test or COVID-19 disease, it is recommended that they be cleared by a health care provider before participating in sports or gym class, even if they are not due for a sports physical or well checkup. A small number of students who have had COVID-19 will need extra testing for heart or other conditions. Some of these tests can be done at Winona Health at the time of the visit. A very small number of athletes will need additional testing and/or specialist consultation that cannot be done at Winona Health, so please allow enough time between the sports physical and the start of the sports season for these to be completed in order to minimize the chance of missing tryouts or practice.
Other useful information:
A parent or guardian should be present with their student for the visit to provide accurate information and to consent to any vaccines or other items that may be needed.
The sports physical and well child questionnaires will be provided at the visit and they can be a bit lengthy. If you would like to complete them before the visit, they can be found on the Winona Health website at www.winonahealth.org/sportsphysical.
Appointments can be made now with your provider of choice. For added convenience, the Winona Health Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine Clinic will be offering walk-in sports physicals combined with well teen checkups (if needed) from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the following days: Thursday, July 8; Wednesday, August 4; and Thursday August 5.
Sports physicals alone (without well child checkups or vaccines) can also be done at the urgent care or if you’d like a low-cost cash option for your sports physical, consider getting it done at Main Street Clinic in downtown Winona.
College sports physicals can also be done in the Winona Health Family Medicine and Sports and Orthopedic clinics as needed.
Summer goes fast. Please don’t wait too long to get your child’s checkup or sports/camp physical done. In case further testing is needed, it is best to do the sports physicals at least 1 month prior to try outs or the start of the sport season.
Oh, and one last thing: Have a safe and healthy summer!