GREENFIELD — As kids head back to school, one item on the checklist for parents of student athletes is the annual sports physical. It’s something IHSAA requires. Doctors with Hancock Health are highlighting the importance of the annual exam.  

While the exam takes only about 30 minutes to complete, Dr. Paul Halter with Hancock Health says the information gained in that half hour is crucial.  

“The preparticipation sports physical really allows us to get a full picture of an athlete’s physical and psychosocial health too,” 

A sports physical includes various items like a reflex test, the checking of eyes and ears and vitals, but can also identify future issues like potential heart problems or mental health issues.  

“We’ve picked up on cardiac murmurs which can lead to sudden death in children if it’s not explored further. And we can do that just by listening with our stethoscopes,” Dr. Halter said.  

The physical also includes a questionnaire that includes screening questions for anxiety and depression. Things that Halter says might not have ordinarily been picked up on. 

“Over the last 5 to 10 years we’ve seen quite an increase in children in adolescence coming to us with symptoms of anxiety, symptoms of depression, things that can be very difficult for an adolescent to share with their parent, with their teacher, even with their friends,” Dr. Halter said. 

Recent trends show how important mental health screening may be. According to the Indiana Youth Institute, 38.7% of Hoosier students reported feeling sad or helpless, while nearly 12.9% reported seriously considering suicide.  

Parents can schedule a sports physical with their child’s primary physician. Family medicine doctors in Hancock Health’s physician network are taking new patients. You can find a doctor and schedule an appointment at HancockRegionalHospital.org

You can also visit a Hancock Health Immediate Care facility or Gateway Hancock Health, without an appointment, to complete a school sports physical for only $25. For more information, including hours and location, visit HancockGateway.org. 

You can download the pre-participation physical evaluation form here.