Can a Sports Physical Replace a Wellness Exam?

August 01, 2017
Before your child takes to the field or courts, chances are you had to take him or her to the doctor’s office for a sports physical as a requirement to join the team. And if your child seems healthy, it may be tempting to put off his or her annual wellness exam. Turns out that each type of visit serves a different purpose and one can’t replace the other.

Mark Karchon, D.O., a family medicine physician at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Family Medicine Practice – Union Lake Rd., explains the differences between the two visits.

What Happens at a Wellness Exam?

“For starters, an annual wellness exam is more comprehensive. Your doctor will talk about nutrition and discuss establishing good habits,” Dr. Karchon says.

Another important part of the wellness visit is immunization. “The immunization story is changing all the time,” he says, like the addition of new vaccinations or revised recommendations. “We update parents with information and keep the child up-to-date on the new guidelines, something that isn’t covered at a sports physical.” Various tests and developmental screenings are also part of an annual wellness exam.

What Happens at a Sports Physical?

That doesn’t mean sports physicals aren’t important, too. Doctors are often looking for different sports-specific health concerns. Per the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s (MHSAA) sports physical form, doctors look at a student’s health history, family history, cardiovascular risk factors and account for any congenital anomalies that may make it unsafe to participate in activities.

Biggest Differentiator?

“Probably the number one most important reason to do a general wellness visit is relationship building,” Dr. Karchon says. Seeing your doctor regularly establishes a foundation of trust, and provides a comfortable environment to share and discuss health information.

Visit to check out more advice on getting your kids ready for sports, and download our 5-2-1-0 Kids! app.

To schedule an appointment for a wellness visit or sports physical with Dr. Karchon, call (248) 360-6000 or request an appointment online.