Rule Change for
7th and 9th Grade Sports Physicals
Starting with the 2008-2009 school year, the State Board of Education requires
that every athlete in the 7th and 9th grade receive a complete well child
checkup (also known as an EPSDT screen) before they can participate in
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Athletes are some of the healthiest students. Why do they need an extra
This is not an extra physical. The well child checkup is a broad exam. It includes
important health questions, a physical exam, screening for hearing and vision,
lab tests, shots, and age-appropriate education. The well child checkup also
covers all the items needed to clear athletes for participation in sports. Athletes
will only need this exam and not an extra sports physical.
Does this mean that sports physicals aren’t good enough for our athletes?
Sports physicals are good exams for clearing students to participate in sports.
But this represents only a part of a student’s total health. It is important to also
address the physical, social, and emotional well-being of children. This can only
be accomplished through the full well child checkup.
Where can my student get their health maintenance exam?
With his or her primary care provider. Every student should have a primary care
provider. This is a doctor or nurse practitioner who knows them well, who gives
them regular checkups and who takes care of them when they are sick. If your
student does not already have a primary care provider, you should check with
your insurance company to find out who is your child’s provider. Well child
checkups are also available at some county health departments.
Who can perform the exam?
The yearly well child checkup can be provided by a physician, a nurse
practitioner, or a specially trained public health nurse or registered nurse.
What if my child doesn’t have health insurance?
Many children in Tennessee are eligible for TennCare
(http://www.state.tn.us/tenncare) or Cover Kids (http://www.covertn.gov). If your
student does not qualify for either of these programs and you do not have health
insurance, you can check to see if your local health department offers the well
child checkup. Many health departments offer the exam on a sliding fee scale.
Also, you may want to ask your coach if they have a list of local providers who
they work with frequently.
Why is this limited to 7th and 9th graders?
This will be a new process for our students, our school officials, and our health
care providers. Starting with a small set of students (athletes in 7th and 9th
grades) will allow us to understand the challenges that may arise when a large
number of students need to have well child checkups.
What if my child is in the 8th grade? Or 6th grade? Or 10th grade? Or any
grade other than the 7th or 9th grade?
Beginning with the 2008-2009 school year, only athletes in the 7th and 9th grade
will be required to have a well child checkup prior to playing sports. Athletes in
all other grades will be required to turn in the same sports clearance forms as in
Why is the state moving towards a requirement for health maintenance
Yearly well child checkups for children and teenagers are recommended by a
number of professional health groups, including the American Academy of
Pediatrics. These exams are important for the early diagnosis and treatment of
medical problems. The yearly checkup is also a good time to talk about
important health topics—nutrition, exercise, alcohol and drug use, and safety
issues such as seatbelt/helmet use. Because many life-long medical problems
start in childhood, it is very important to tackle these problems at an early age,
and to foster healthy lifestyle choices that may prevent chronic medical problems
in later life.
When can the sports clearance form be filled out?
The clearance form can be filled out anytime after May 1. You can download the
form from the Tennessee Department of Health website (should be available
after May 1, at http://health.state.tn.us).
What if my student had their well child checkup before May 1? Will he or
she have to have another checkup before playing sports?
Usually not. This depends on how long it has been since your child’s exam. If it
has only been a few months, and your doctor feels comfortable filling out the
sports clearance form, then your child will probably not need another complete
checkup. However, your child’s doctor may want to check your child for those
health aspects related directly to sports participation.
Do all student athletes have to have exams?
Yes. Both State Board of Education rules and T.S.S.A.A. rules require that any
child, regardless of age, who participates in interscholastic sports must have an
annual physical exam before participating. This includes students in both public
and private schools.
What if my child was held back in either the 7th or 9th grade? Do we have to
get the full exam two years in a row?
No. Students will not need two full exams in back-to-back years. The full
checkup is only needed the first time a student is a 7th or 9th grader. Otherwise,
the student may have the traditional sports physical required in the other grades.