Well Visit vs. Sports Physical: What’s the Difference?


It’s that time of year again: the back-to-school hustle is in full swing.

Toward the top of all of our to-do lists – hovering somewhere between purchasing school supplies and seeing what clothes still fit your child – should be scheduling a well visit exam with your child’s physician.

“Annual pediatric checkups are a critical part of your child’s health, wellness and development,” says Dr. James Hahn, Pediatric and Sports Medicine Physician at St. Elizabeth Physicians. “We’re here to make sure your child is on track and ready for the school year ahead.”

These annual well visits are an important touch-base between the parents and physician about a variety of topics, including:

  • Age-appropriate developmental issues
  • Ongoing health issues or concerns
  • Illness prevention
  • Immunizations
  • Growth monitoring
  • Discussion of health and wellness topics
  • Any necessary screenings or testing

There’s a Difference?

There can be confusion about the difference between a well visit exam and a sports physical exam. Many parents want to cross both items off the to-do list with one appointment. While there is some overlap between well visits and sports physicals, Dr. Hahn explains why it’s important to recognize that each exam has its own focus and objective.

“Sports physicals are much less comprehensive than annual well visit physicals,” says Dr. Hahn. “Typically, sports physicals don’t include the health maintenance aspect of a child’s care, such as immunizations and developmental milestones.”

The primary objectives of sports physicals include:

  • Screening for life-threatening or disabling conditions
  • Preventing injury or illness
  • Proactively reviewing safety measures for the child’s particular sport

Sports physicals are typically performed by a sports medicine physician. If you’d prefer for your child’s physician to perform both a well visit and a sports physical during your child’s annual exam, make sure to note that when calling to schedule your child’s appointment. Also, bring all necessary forms and paperwork for the physician to complete at the time of your child’s visit.

St. Elizabeth Physicians: Here for Your Family

At St. Elizabeth Physicians, our primary care doctors are board-certified in Family Medicine, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, making sure to cover all of your family’s medical needs. It’s not too late to make an appointment for your child before the school year is underway – or at any time of the year.

Our offices offer a variety of convenient locations in the Northern Kentucky community. Schedule an appointment online or by calling us at (800) 737-0900.