Summer is an ideal time to schedule those school-required sport physicals. “Children shouldn’t wait until the week before school for their pre-participation physical exam. That doesn’t allow time for a problem to be corrected or rehabilitated if it is detected,” said Dr. Julie Jones of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. As a bonus, students don’t run the risk of overbooked doctor’s offices and last-minute panic. A pre-participation physical exam (PPE) serves three purposes: to detect conditions that might predispose the student to injury or illness during competition; to detect conditions that might be life-threatening or disabling and might limit an athlete’s safe participation; to meet legal and insurance requirements of the state or school. A PPE should include a baseline medical history and a physical exam. “Both of these should emphasize areas of greatest concern for sports participation, such as head or musculoskeletal injuries, cardiovascular problems and asthma,” said Jones, an assistant professor of family and community medicine and medical director of school-based clinics for the Harris County Hospital District. To allow time to treat problems identified during the physical, the PPE should be performed at least six weeks before preseason practice. “Some kids put off getting their physical exam until the coach tells them they can’t play without it,” Jones said. “If the procrastination is due to fear that a health problem will keep them off the team, that fear is usually unwarranted.” Research has shown that less than two percent of athletes are denied clearance to play sports because of the PPE, and less than 14 percent require further evaluation. PPE’s also enable the physician to determine the athlete’s general health, counsel the athlete on health-related issues and assess the fitness level for specific sports.