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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)




Sports physicians and medical academies are discouraging schools from holding large-scale medical screenings for young athletes to obtain their state-required annual sports physicals.

Sports-related injuries in student athletes exceed 2 million a year, and in Ohio all school athletes are required to get annual physicals.

But a practice for some local school districts - large-scale clinics usually held in high schools at little to no cost for the athletes - is being discouraged by some in the medical community who recommend families opt for one-on-one visits with a doctor for teens. Middletown and Hamilton school districts, among others, held large-scale screenings in the spring.

"Student-athletes should ideally schedule this with their personal physician, who has access to medical records, can adjust treatment of chronic medical conditions, and can incorporate the examination into routine well-child examinations," according to the American Academy of Pediatrics' manual on pre-participation physical examinations.

This is a concept also endorsed by the American Academy of Family Physicians and American College of Sports Medicine, among others.

Sports physicals are required every year by the Ohio High School Athletic Association before any student in grades 7-12 can practice or participate in game play.

Sports physicals conducted at large-scale screenings at schools often require students to rotate among stations where medical professionals take vital signs, listen for signs of deeper problems such as heart murmurs, and look for signs of pre-existing conditions like hernias.

Any recommendations made by the physicians are based upon these vital signs and any additional medical history provided by the family, said Dr. Sean Convery, of Premier Sports Medicine in Centerville.

"In the last couple of years, it has become apparent to our physicians involved in these mass exams that we can't meet the recommendations set out by these medical bodies by seeing kids in a public environment, especially when they are examined by a physician they have never seen before," Convery said, who also serves as head physician for the University of Dayton athletic program.

High school athletes account for an estimated 2 million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits, and 30,000 hospitalizations annually, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Dale Block, a primary care physician at Premier Family Care of Mason, said the annual sports physical can sometimes be a teenager's only interaction with a doctor in that calendar year.

"It's a chance to do the sports physical and ask about other issues related to adolescence," Block said, including sex, drug and alcohol use and depression. "Evidence-based research supports one-on-one well-child exams."

Block said mass clinics were more popular in the 1980s to 1990s, but he's since noticed a decline in their presence. He said more families are opting to visit a primary care office due to increased access to insurance through the health exchange and expanded Medicaid.

"Evidence has proven the importance of moving away from physical exams that take place in a large group setting," Block said., who serves as team physician for Mason High School. "It's a one-time relationship and not one built over time. More importantly, it doesn't provide the opportunity to address issues related to physical growth as well as interpersonal problems at school "


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