Definition and Overview

Over the last few years, more and more people are getting into sports. According to the data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are at least 30 million men and women in the United States alone that are engaged in some type of sports.

Playing sports offers plenty of benefits, particularly to athletes. It teaches them discipline, dedication, hard work, and teamwork. However, it comes with a varying degree of risks depending on the kind of sport an individual participates in. Contact sports such as boxing or football, for example, increase the risk of head injuries. Sports like tennis or squash, on the other hand, may lead to musculoskeletal disorders due to repetitive use of a certain body part.

Due to the various risks associated with sports, many associations implement strict guidelines and standards for all players. These include getting a medical exam certification from a board-certified doctor who specializes in sports medicine. These could be orthopedic surgeons, physical and occupational therapists, and cardiovascular experts, among others.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

A certified medical examination for athletes is considered when:

  • It is a requirement. Aside from the state and federal laws that govern athletics, various sports-related organizations require a certified medical examination to ensure the safety and health of the athlete before he is allowed to compete.

  • The athlete is getting older. Aging comes along with many health issues that can affect a gameplay and the overall safety of the athlete.

  • The athlete has been injured before. The effects of sports-related injuries may be either short or long term. The exam allows the doctor to check for complications regularly, control or treat them, and help the athlete to effectively cope with them.

  • The athlete needs to play again. An athlete requires a proof that he is fit and healthy to participate in sports following an injury.

  • There is training. Coaches and sports trainers typically require their athletes to undergo a comprehensive health exam and obtain a certification before they are accepted for training.

How Does the Procedure Work?

A certified medical examination for athlete can be conducted by the:

  • Team’s physician
  • Attending doctor or therapist in the hospital or clinic
  • Player’s personal doctor
  • Physician chosen by an organization, team, or state


For the player to obtain a medical certificate, he needs to go through a thorough health exam, which may include:

  • Cardiovascular screening such as electrocardiography and stress test
  • Blood tests
  • Urinalysis and stool exam
  • Neurological screening
  • Cognitive and motor skill exam
  • Dental exam
  • Eye and hearing tests
  • Pulmonary function tests
  • Imaging exams


These exams may be undertaken all in one day or over the course of several days.

The specific test that the athlete will need to undergo depends on several factors including his overall health condition, competitive sports chosen, age, diagnosis of existing illnesses, game rules, federal and state athletic laws, and organization guidelines. Depending on the type and number of medical tests that an individual needs to go through, he may be required to see more than one doctor (example: an orthopedic surgeon and a dentist).

The medical certificate may be the one that is already formatted by sports organizers or come directly from the physician’s clinic or hospital. It should include the signature of the physician who conducted the exam, the date the certificate was issued, and summary of the exam results. It can also be as simple as stating whether the player is fit to compete and the reason for such conclusion.

Possible Risks and Complications

The main risk is that individuals may not be allowed to participate in training or engage in their chosen sports if they fail to pass the exam.

Reference:

  • American College of Sports Medicine. Selecting and Effectively Using a Personal Trainer. 2011. www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/brochures/using-a-personal-trainer.pdf?sfvrsn=4. Accessed September 21, 2015.
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