Is Your Preteen Physically Ready For Team Sports? Five Things To Check Before Signing Up

If you have a preteen who is hoping to compete in team sports in junior high or middle school this fall, it's important to make sure she is physically ready to train and compete. Before your daughter starts any new or difficult spots, you can take her to a child health clinic in your area for a sports physical. Here are some things that should be checked and addressed before tryouts.

1. Vision

If your child already wears glasses, a yearly check-up is part of your routine. But, vision problems can occur at any time, and a basic eye test should be part of your physical exam. If the doctor does not do simple vision tests as part of the physical, its up to you to schedule a second appointment with your local eye doctor. Vision problems can lead to injuries on and off the field. 

2. Breathing

You might not notice that your child has trouble breathing until they get into team sports. Childhood asthma, allergies, or other factors can contribute to sport performance. Your child may need an inhaler or a specific allergy medication to compete without breathing trouble. 

3. Strength and flexibility

At the appointment, your child can let the doctor know what sports they are interested in. The preteen years (11-12) are a period of intense hormonal change and physical growth. Your child can be clumsy, stiff, or have increased coordination problems. Your doctor can recommend ways to stretch and prevent injury as the body begins to start the changes that happen during puberty onset. 

4. Past injuries

If your child has been injured in the past, it's important to have those injuries checked before the playing season begins. Old concussions, fractures, sprains, or muscles tears can all affect whether your child is fit to play and whether they are healed enough for the injured area to endure the stress of consistent training, especially if the injury was more recent. 

5. Nutrition and care

Your child should be getting plenty to eat, but some budding athletes struggle to get the actual nutrients they need. It's especially important for your preteen to maintain strong, healthy bones during new school sports. The fast growth of this age and increased stress from sports can lead to bone injury without proper nutritional care. This can sometimes be a challenge for parents to control, because children are becoming more independent at this age, so it is hard for parents to make kids drink milk or eat vegetables (both sources of calcium) if they do not want to. Having your doctor tell your son or daughter what they need to do may have a more effective result than hearing it from mom or dad.