Can A Sports Physical Replace A Wellness Exam?

August 8, 2023

Before your child can take the field or hit the courts, their doctor must give the all-clear for them to play.

Henry Ford HealthSince the sports physical is a pre-requisite to organized activity, you may be tempted to skip your child’s annual well-visit. After all, do you really need to go to the doctor’s office twice if they’re healthy enough to play sports?

Of course, the answer is yes! Each type of visit to your pediatrician serves a different purpose, and one cannot replace the other.

Shoshana Gordon, D.O., a pediatrician for Henry Ford Health, explains the differences between the sports physical and regular wellness examination.

What Happens at a Wellness Exam

An annual wellness exam is a comprehensive visit that allows your child’s pediatrician to monitor all aspects of your child’s development. These appointments can vary quite a bit, depending on your child’s age.

“Your child grows so much early in life that we need to see them several times before their first birthday,” says Dr. Gordon. “As they get older, the conversations at these appointments evolve and expand to include topics like mental health and what to expect from puberty.”

Generally, many aspects of your child’s wellness exam will stay the same over time. Regardless of age, this appointment will include:

  • Checking vitals (heart rate, blood pressure)
  • A physical exam (to monitor physical growth)
  • Discussing developmental milestones
  • Developmental and emotional/behavioral screenings
  • Conversations about nutrition and any physical activities your child is involved in
  • Conversations about how your child is getting on at school
  • An opportunity to discuss questions or concerns you or your child may have

One crucial part of the wellness exam is immunization. This appointment is the best time for you to talk with your child’s pediatrician to make sure that your child is up to date on necessary vaccines.

Additionally, wellness exams are the best way for you and your child to develop a relationship with their pediatrician. When you only take your child to the doctor when they are sick, it is harder for your pediatrician to set a baseline for their health.

“Regular wellness visits allow you and your child to get comfortable with asking your doctor questions,” says Dr. Gordon. “Once we develop a good patient-provider relationship, your child’s pediatrician will have an easier time recognizing when your child isn’t feeling like themselves and can better offer alternate approaches to care that best suit your child’s unique needs."

What Happens at a Sports Physical

Sports physicals are used to determine if your child is healthy enough to participate in organized sports. During this appointment, your child’s doctor will screen them for different sports-specific health concerns. They will be evaluating several things including:

  • Heart function
  • Lung function
  • Mobility
  • Reflexes
  • Endurance

“During a sports physical, we’ll look at both your child’s and your family’s health history to make sure there aren’t any indicators that could impact your child’s ability to play,” says Dr. Gordon. “For example, if your child had COVID or if you have a family history of cardiovascular complications, additional tests may be necessary to make sure this isn’t affecting your child’s health.”

The biggest difference from a wellness exam? Sports physicals don’t include developmental screeners that are essential to your child’s growth.

“At the end of the day, a sports physical cannot take the place of your child’s annual wellness exam,” says Dr. Gordon. “However, when you go for your child’s wellness exam, talk to your child’s pediatrician about including a sports physical as part of the appointment.”

In addition to the developmental, social and emotional evaluations that take place at your child’s annual wellness exam, this is the best time for you and your child to get to know your pediatrician. Establishing yourself with your child’s doctor will make it easier to treat and care for your child as they continue to grow.

To find a pediatrician or make an appointment online, visit or call 1-800-436-7936.

Dr. Shoshana Gordon is a pediatrician who sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center-Royal Oak and Henry Ford Medical Center-Sterling Heights.

Symptoms of a Meniscus Tear — and When to Seek Treatment

April 2, 2024

Meniscus tears are not one size fits all: Sometimes they cause no pain, other times they’re excruciating.

Henry Ford HealthOnce in a while they heal or adapt on their own, but more often than not they require physical therapy or surgery.    

“Your meniscus is a fiber elastic cartilage that acts as a shock absorber for the knee,” says Ahmad Bazzi, M.D., a sports medicine physician at Henry Ford Health. “It also helps stabilize the knee joint. But when it tears — which can occur in young athletes after a pivot injury or in older people who have arthritis — it can be painful.”

Here, Dr. Bazzi shares symptoms of a meniscus tear and when to see a doctor. 

What Does A Meniscus Tear Feel Like?

Depending upon the level of injury and type of tear, meniscus tears can either be asymptomatic or cause symptoms like:

  • Locking. When the meniscus tears, a piece of it might move into the knee joint, causing mechanical issues like stiffness and locking of the knee joint.
  • Catching or clicking. This often feels like a sudden ‘click’ in the knee joint, where it suddenly gives out while you’re walking or doing certain movements. 
  • Localized pain on the inner or outer part of the knee. In young athletes, a meniscus tear often causes an impaired range of motion and localized pain on the inner or outer part of the knee. 
  • Pain and swelling. In older people, a meniscus tear often causes swelling and an overall aching pain in the knee.  

Treatment Options For Meniscus Tears

A meniscus tear can only heal on its own if the tear is on the outer part of the knee where it has better access to blood supply. If you’re experiencing pain a few days after injury and you have limited range of motion, instability and/or swelling in the knee, Dr. Bazzi recommends seeing a doctor to get an examination and, if needed, an MRI for diagnosis. 

“It’s hard to tell what type of meniscus tear you have if you haven’t seen a doctor,” says Dr. Bazzi. “If you have a mechanically unstable tear and it goes untreated, it could lead to worsening range of motion and stiffness, or worsening arthritis. It’s important to get seen by a doctor to get an accurate diagnosis and the proper treatment. It may take one to three months for a full recovery.”     

Here, Dr. Bazzi shares treatment options:


If someone is having mechanical symptoms like locking or catching, surgery may be considered right away, especially if it’s an athlete younger than 40 years old. “Meniscus tear surgery has a shorter recovery compared to other knee surgeries,” says Dr. Bazzi. “Surgery could either consist of a meniscectomy, which is partial or complete removal of the meniscus, or sometimes just a meniscus repair.”  

Hyaluronic acid or cortisone injections

Non-operative treatments are often recommended for older people who have degenerative tears due to arthritis. “This is because meniscus surgery doesn’t often relieve their pain since they have underlying arthritis, meaning they have cartilage loss in the meniscus,” says Dr. Bazzi. 

Instead, a cortisone injection, which is an anti-inflammatory medication that can be injected into the knee, can reduce inflammation, swelling and pain caused by arthritis.

A hyaluronic acid injection may also be considered, which adds cushioning in the knee. “Hyaluronic acid is one of the substances that make up our cartilage, so this injection helps us mimic the lost cartilage,” says Dr. Bazzi. “It also has anti-inflammatory properties.” 

Physical therapy

Physical therapy is another great option, especially for older people who need non-operative treatment options. It can help the knee adapt to the tear, reduce pain and encourage full range of motion. “Physical therapy for meniscus tears focuses on balance exercises and exercises to strengthen the muscles around the knee,” says Dr. Bazzi. “This helps to uphold the knee joint to achieve full range of motion and strength while being pain-free.” 

To find a sports medicine provider at Henry Ford Health, visit or call 313-651-1969.

Reviewed by Ahmad Bazzi, M.D., a sports medicine physician who sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center – Fairlane.