New Requirements Ensure Student Athletes at the Top of their Game

April 26, 2008

With a commitment to the health and well-being of every student in the state, the Tennessee Department of Education announced today the establishment of new rules that will ensure each student athlete is at the top of their game both physically and as a well-rounded student.

A new State Board of Education rule will require athletes entering the seventh and ninth grade for the 2008-09 school year to have a complete health maintenance exam also known as a “well-child check” or Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) exam prior to sports participation.

“Improving and ensuring the health of every student, so they can focus on their most important job of learning, is one of our single biggest priorities,” said Tim Webb, Acting Education Commissioner.

The health maintenance exam includes a thorough history, a physical exam, screening for hearing and vision, laboratory tests, immunizations and age-appropriate education. It also covers all the items needed so athletes can be cleared for participation in sports.

These exams are different from typical sports physicals, which do not address the behavioral, emotional and psychosocial topics covered during a comprehensive health maintenance exam. When the complete health exam is substituted for a sports physical, there is increased opportunity to address issues vital to a student’s health.

“Given the number of chronic health problems rooted in childhood, it is important to tackle these problems early and this exam provides a venue to address these areas,” said Dr. Veronica Gunn, Chief Medical Officer of the Tennessee Department of Health.

Students may obtain the comprehensive exam from their primary care provider, or if a child is uninsured, parents can inquire about eligibility for other health care programs like TennCare at www.state.tn.us/tenncare or Cover Kids at www.covertn.gov/web/cover_kids.html. Detailed information on this physical can be found at the Department of Health’s Web site: http://health.state.tn.us/sportsphysical.

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