A physical is the part of a doctor’s exam that checks a patient’s medical history, vital signs, and physical appearance to determine any existing health issues. In cases where there are no current health problems, the goal is typically to prevent future health concerns.
Although specifics of a physical will vary based on the reason for the physical, as well as the patient’s gender and age, most routine physicals typically check the functioning of the lungs, heart, head, neck, extremities, and skin. Other areas may also be included depending on the patient’s medical history.
A General Physical Exam Typically Includes:
- An updated health history from the patient to determine any recent medical problems or new medications and/or supplements.
- A check of vital signs such as blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate.
- A visual review of the patient’s appearance.
- The physical exam, which includes listening to the heart and lungs, along with a visual check of the hair, nails, limbs, abdomen, neck, and head.
- Bloodwork for lab tests may or may not be required, and would additional, i.e.; blood count, blood chemistry, lipid panel, etc.
- Diagnostic testing might or might not be required and would be additional i.e.; EKG, Chest X-Ray, etc.
- Specific screenings based on age, gender or activity or employment.
Additional Requirements for Men may be:
- Cholesterol Test: Every five years for those over 35; or as young as 20 if there’s a family history of heart disease or diabetes.
- Testicular Exam: A check of each testicle for lumps, tenderness, or changes in size.
- Prostate Cancer Screening: Either a prostate specific antigen (PSA) or digital rectal exam.
Additional Requirements for Women may be:
- Cholesterol Test: Regular checks starting at age 45; or as early as 20 if there’s a genetic history of heart disease or diabetes.
- Pap Smear: Screenings after age 21 or within three years of sexual activity, depending on which comes first; every three years afterward.
- Pelvic Exam: A check of the vagina, vulva, and cervix for signs of sexually transmitted diseases (usually conducted while collecting the pap smear sample).
- Breast Exam: A check for lumps or other signs of breast cancer.
- Mammogram: Recommended every two years for those ages 50 to 74.
- Osteoporosis Screening: Bone density scans starting at age 65.
Both Men and Women as clinically appropriate:
- Depression: Annual screenings to check for signs of depression.
- Diabetes: Either fasting blood sugar or HbA1c testing for those at risk of diabetes based on blood pressure or genetic history.
- Colorectal Cancer Test: Recommended for those age 50 and above.
- Sexually Transmitted Infection Screening: May be recommended annually depending on the patient’s sexual history.
School & Sport
School and sport physicals are conducted to determine whether a child is healthy and physically prepared to participate in sports and/or other school activities. These regular exams can also be a good time for physicians to discuss important health issues with children and their parents or guardians. In addition, MD Now also offers age appropriate immunizations as well as prescriptions, and treatments for common childhood health conditions.
Requirements for Sport & School Physicals
Many states now require annual physical exams before students can participate in any sport or physical activity offered by schools, camps, and other community youth organizations. The exact requirements will depend on the specific requirements of the state school system or the sport or activity. In general, however, sports and school physicals include these three steps:
- A review of the patient’s medical background
- A physical examination
- The completion of necessary School Physical or Vaccination forms and Sports Physical forms
- School Physicals might require age appropriate vaccinations or documentation.
- Sports Physicals might require EKG testing if suggested by the provider
The Physical Examination
The physical exam might include the following:
- Measuring and recording the patient’s height and weight
- Checking blood pressure, pulse, abdomen, ears, nose, throat, heart, and lung function
- Vision testing, as appropriate
- Evaluation of strength, flexibility, posture, and joints
As part of the physical, the doctor may ask the patient about drug, alcohol, and dietary supplement usage. Questions may also include the use of steroids, and weight-loss and performance-enhancing drugs that could impact a patient’s health. Upon completion of the exam, the doctor will sign any necessary forms and/or recommend a follow-up exam, further tests, or procedures, if needed.
It’s important for a parent, guardian, or other adult with parental or guardian permission to accompany minors during a school or sport physical.
Why Sport Physicals Are Required
Sport physicals help determine whether a child is healthy enough to participate in a particular sport or activity. These physicals are particularly important for any child with an existing health issue, such as asthma or a previous physical injury that could be aggravated or made worse by participating in a sport or activity.
While these conditions may not preclude participation, they could indicate a need for additional testing, medication, or other adjustments to avoid worsening the health problem. In some cases, your MD Now doctor may be able to provide training tips to prevent sports injuries.
Frequency of Sport Physicals
For most young athletes, an annual sport physical should be sufficient. If a patient has had a previous sports injury, it’s important for the injury to completely heal before resuming activity. The MD Now doctor should verify this before participation resumes.
For healthy, uninjured athletes, sport physicals should be completed six weeks prior to participation in the sport or activity. This ensures sufficient time to address any health problems before the season begins.
What’s Needed to Complete the Physical
Requirements for sport physicals vary based on the sport and the state’s requirements. Make sure you bring all required forms that will need to be completed, and that the forms clearly detail all necessary requirements for participation. If the forms are unclear, you should check with your sports program administrator for clarification. Also, children who wears glasses or contacts should bring these to the exam.Back to Top
Department of Transportation (DOT) Physicals
DOT physicals are extremely important since the health of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) driver typically has an impact on the safety of a great many individuals. These physicals not only pinpoint potential problems with the driver’s health, but can help protect others who ride with or share the road with the CMV driver.
For this reason, both the driver’s physical and mental health must be closely examined to ensure that the driver is healthy enough to operate a vehicle in a manner that keeps everyone on our roads safe.
To assess the CMV driver’s physical health, the MD Now doctor will:
- Evaluate the driver’s health history
- Review the driver’s medication
- Perform vision and hearing tests
- Check pulse and blood pressure
- Perform a thorough physical exam
- Screen or evaluate for heart disease, sleep apnea and others as needed.
- Conduct a urine drug test, as appropriate
After the exam, the MD Now medical staff will complete the necessary federally required DOT forms, including the Medical Examination Report for Commercial Driver Fitness Determination.
All necessary forms must be completed, including the Medical Examination Report for Commercial Driver Fitness Determination. All DOT physical requirements must be met and supporting documentation provided before a driver can be cleared for the CDL medical card.
The Validation Period
In most cases, a DOT physical exam is valid for 24 months (two years). If the physical uncovers a medical condition requiring additional monitoring, the medical examiner may issue a Medical Examiner’s Certificate for less than the usual 24-month period. This ensures proper follow-up care.Back to Top
“The above is presented for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. If you require medical advice or treatment, you should go to MD Now Urgent Care, your physician, or the nearest ER for evaluation.”