What’s the Difference Between a Sports Physical and a Yearly Physical?

First Aid Neon

As more schools and quick care outlets offer Sports Physicals, we felt that we should explain the difference between a Sports Physical and a Yearly Physical. Many adolescents and their parents believe that a Sports Physical is equivalent to a Yearly Physical, but this is not true. The Sports Physical is designed to clear an athlete for participation in sports while the yearly physical is more comprehensive.

A Sports Physical usually includes a physical examination and a brief discussion of the child’s medical history. Developmental and immunization histories, long-term health concerns and risk factors, and advice for developing a healthy lifestyle are not reviewed during a Sports Physical.

The Yearly Physical usually includes a complete physical examination (including vision and hearing screening), a discussion of the child’s medical history, weight, height and body mass index, childhood nutrition, sleep habits, physical development and activity, social development and activity, cognitive development and academics, risks to health and safety, status of chronic conditions, immunization update, preventive health recommendations, cholesterol and anemia check, and adolescent issues. It is also our opportunity to discuss important topics such as peer pressure, avoiding drugs, tobacco and steroids. It helps us to develop an open, trusting relationship with you and your child so you can turn to us with questions or concerns regarding puberty, normal development or any medical concerns.

To summarize the difference, there is no such thing as a quickie physical or just a simple Sports Physical. Eliminating recommended components of the Yearly Physical is poor quality care. We follow the American Academy of Pediatrics Bright Future recommendations for well care. The people doing the Sports Physicals do not follow these guidelines.

Pricing Differences

With the insurance regulations now in effect, most insurance companies will pay for the Yearly Physical examinations without a co-pay. This, of course, depends on your individual policy and we suggest you contact your insurance company if you aren’t sure what your policy covers. Some insurance companies allow these once a calendar year; others allow them once every 365 days. Schools may charge a fee to perform the Sports Physical stating that it is “cheaper” than going to see your regular doctor. They also may say that a percentage of the fee will be donated back to the sports program at the school. The reason they charge this fee is because most insurance companies will not pay for a Sports Physical because it simply doesn’t exist and is not recognized as good care for the patient. If this was good care, then the insurance companies would not hesitate to pay because it would be cheaper for them than a full Yearly Physical. Honestly, if you want to donate to your child’s sports program at school, we recommend doing this in some other way that doesn’t potentially compromise your child’s health.

Filling out School Forms

If you need to have a participation form filled out, and your child has had a Yearly Physical examination in the past 12 months, we can complete this form for you without your child needing to have any other type of physical done. We will complete the form based on the most recent yearly physical examination. If you drop off the form, please fill out any sections that are “parent” sections. We cannot fill out our part unless your section is completed first. Please allow 7 business days (Monday-Friday) for your form to be completed. If you require the form sooner than the 7 business days, please call our office to ask about that the charges for urgent requests. If you do not have a Yearly Physical done in our office, we will not be able to complete any forms you might need at any other times during the year, including camp forms.


What we require

Casa Verde Pediatrics wants your child to be as healthy as possible. We feel that regularly scheduled Yealry Physicals help to ensure that your child is growing and developing well. These visits allow us a chance to find and treat any concerns early. In order to remain an active patient with Casa Verde Pediatrics, we ask that you bring your child in for a Yearly Physical examination. These visits help your child learn how to take responsibility for their own healthcare.


About Lisa M. Asta, MD

Lisa M. Asta, M.D. is board-certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, for which she is also a Media Representative (she has been interviewed for “Kids Health” on Health Radio, and quoted in Parenting Magazine, USA Today, and the New York Times, among other publications). She is a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California at San Francisco and past pediatric chair at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek. She graduated from Temple University School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Asta is also a writer whose fiction has appeared in Inkwell, Philadelphia Stories, Schuylkill, and Zeniada. Her essays have appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Hippocrates, the San Jose Mercury News, and The New Physician Magazine. She is an occasional contributor to KQED public radio’s Perspectives series, and has written articles for Bay Area Parent, Valley Parent, Parents’ Press, and Parents Express, as well as online at WebMD.com, Rx.com, and MyLifePath.com. She wrote a chapter in The Field Guide to the Normal Newborn, ed. Gary Emmet, M.D. BabyCenter.com currently has two how-to videos for parents in production which feature Dr. Asta. For more on Dr. Asta’s writing, visit www.LMAsta.com
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