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The Preparticipation Physical Exam, or PPE, commonly known as a sports physical is performed over six million times in the U.S. annually and may be the only contact an adolescent or teen ever has with a physician.
In fact, adolescents represent the most underserved population in healthcare. Traditionally, parents have viewed the PPE as a yearly, comprehensive medical evaluation, whereas physicians have held that it is more of a cursory exam in which possible limitations to sports participation may be identified.
As pediatricians, I think we do a pretty good job of facing the reality that the PPE, and also the camp physical, has often times become our one chance at providing healthcare to these young athletes and identifying secondary issues that might affect their health and well being.
The primary goals of the PPE are to detect conditions that might predispose to injury, detect conditions that might be life threatening or disabling, and to meet legal and insurance requirements, although it feels a bit annoying to write that last one.
Secondary goals include picking up on issues such as delinquent immunizations, high risk behavior involving smoking, drug abuse, sexual behavior, performance enhancing supplements and also mental health concerns, such as depression or anxiety.
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