A prospective study of preparticipation sports examinations of 2670 young athletes: method and results

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More than 17 million young people in this country participate in organized sports. Seven million high school students engage in interscholastic competition.1 Although such widespread athletic participation is beneficial to the physical well-being of developing adolescents, there is an accompanying risk of injury and death.2, 3 In an attempt to reduce this risk, all states have enacted laws requiring students to have regular preparticipation physical examinations.4 Sports-oriented medical examinations can decrease morbidity and mortality by identifying risk factors before participation. Unfortunately, school sports physicals are frequently considered ineffective, inconvenient, or too costly, and there is little baseline data available from these examinations.5, 6 The purpose of this study was to establish baseline examination data from a large group of young athletes studied prospectively and to evaluate the screening effectiveness, convenience, and cost of this comprehensive approach.

Patients and methods

The subjects of this study were students from suburban Cleveland area high schools aspiring to participate in interscholastic and intramural sports during the 1980–1981 playing season. The students were examined only from the standpoint of screening for safe sports participation, i.e., for the detection of high-risk medical contraindications to participation and the detection of lower-risk conditions that would benefit from further evaluation and rehabilitation. We emphasized that these examinations were not a substitute for regular medical care. Explicit treatment information was not provided to students with sports risk factors, but follow-up evaluation with either a coach, school nurse, or family doctor was required.

Twelve orthopaedic surgery residents at or above . . .



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