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Well-Child Visits vs. Sports Screenings

Doctor listening to the heartbeat of a small child

With the start of the school year and fall sports, now is the time to schedule a well-child exam for your child. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends every school-aged child receive a well-child exam every year. Since these are deemed wellness visits, they are commonly covered by insurance and often without co-payment.  A well-child exam does not mean sports physical. These two are actually quite different; however, a sports physical form may be filled out during a well-child exam. 

A sports physical is a limited exam that only focuses on a patient’s current and past medical condition that may impact sports participation. During a well-child exam, your child’s overall health and well-being are assessed, which addresses topics and concerns that a sports physical would skip. Examples of areas that are reviewed and discussed are development, including physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development. Below is a side by side comparison of a well-child visit and a sports physical.  

Well-Child:

Sports Physical:

  • All medical problems, including personal and family medical history

  • Medical problems, which affect sports participation (i.e., old injuries, chronic conditions like asthma)

  • Full physical exam

  • Inherited problems, which affect sports 

  • Monitor year-to-year growth compared to peers

  • Check height, weight, and BMI

  • Review all developmental issues appropriate for age

  • Review common subjects related to sports (i.e., concussion, hydration)

  • Age-appropriate screening labs

  • No labs

  • Vaccinations

  • No vaccinations

  • Referrals if needed for any of the above

  • Referrals if not cleared for sports

  • Covered by insurance

  • Not covered by insurance


To get the most out of a well-child visit, make a list of topics you want to discuss with your child’s primary care provider such as development, behavior, sleep, or eating. Bring your top 3-5 questions with you to the visit, and as your child gets older, have them contribute questions he or she would like to ask. A sports physical can also be completed during a well-child exam. When you schedule your appointment, mention that you also need a sports physical. 

With multiple providers and locations in Newberry, Curtis, and Engadine, Helen Newberry Joy Hospital Clinics offer opportunities for appointments each week. To schedule an appointment call, 293.9223 for the Gibson Family Health Clinic, 586.3300 for the Manistique Lakes Family Clinic, and 477.6066 for the West Mackinac Health Clinic.