MARIETTA - Along with new clothes, pencils, backpacks and the like, some students' back-to-school lists should include a visit to the doctor or shots.
Students who want to participate in school sports, and in some cases band, must have a physical performed before they can be cleared to play or even practice, which starts in the next week or so for most fall sports. And while it's fairly common knowledge that incoming kindergarteners are required to have certain immunizations, vaccinations for older students have been added in recent years.
Marietta High School athletic director Rick Guimond said the physical is probably the most important eligibility requirement for participation in Ohio High School Athletic Association sports "because it's kind of that medical release for competition."
Photo by Evan Bevins
Nurse practitioner Tony Goocey, left, checks the ear of incoming Marietta High School freshman Kienze Clark at Quick Care. Clark had to have a physical before she could be cleared to participate in cheerleading.
"The more information you can gather about a student athlete, the better off you are," he said.
The OHSAA produces a form that students and the person performing the examination must fill out and return to the school before the child can be cleared to play. It includes more than 50 questions about their medical history and a form for notations literally from head to toe, including cardiac, neurological and skin issues.
Tony Goocey, nurse practitioner with Quick Care in Marietta, said the sports exam has many of the same characteristics as a standard physical. The family history is important to assess a student's risk factors for conditions for which they might not show symptoms, he said.
Need to know
The Ohio High School Athletic Association requires a student at a participating school to have a physical examination completed before taking part in a sport.
Immunizations required for attendance to Ohio schools, pre-schools, Head Start and child care can be found at www.odh.ohio.gov/odhPrograms/dis/immunization/immindex1.aspx or by contacting your school.
Immunizations required for West Virginia students and children can be found at www.dhhr.wv.gov/oeps/immunization/schedules/Pages/default.aspx
"The main thing we're concerned about is any unexplained, sudden, cardiac deaths of immediate family members," he said, noting some cardiac conditions can be hereditary.
Occasionally, a sports physical can uncover a previously unknown health concern. Goocey said he's encountered a few situations like that, such as discovering an irregular heartbeat during the exam.
"We will refer to testing or to a cardiologist," he said.
Crystal Kimbrough, 38, of Marietta, said she's glad the physicals are required and admitted that if they weren't, she might not feel a sense of urgency to take her sons to the doctor as frequently. Sports physicals have been a regular part of summer activities for the family, with Kimbrough's daughter having played sports when she was in high school and three sons - in eighth, 11th and 12th grade - playing football now.
"I always plan mine in July," she said. "You know before the school year starts to get the physical done."
Kimbrough took all three of her sons to the Marietta City Health Department for their physicals earlier this month. She said she felt that would be quicker than getting them appointments with their family doctor.
The Washington County Health Department also offered a clinic for sports physicals, serving 42 students in late June at a cost of $15 apiece, said Val Betkoski, director of nursing. Quick Care, which charges $18 for the physicals, has seen an influx of students as well.
Some schools set up opportunities for students to get physicals. Dr. John McElroy performed free physicals for nearly 70 Fort Frye athletes and band members in grades seven through 12 last week, said Fort Frye athletic director Beth Brown.
"He agreed to stay for an hour-and-a-half and ended up staying three hours," she said.
Immunizations are another back-to-school medical issue. Recently, Ohio began requiring students entering seventh grade to have had the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) vaccination. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommend that adolescents receive the MCV4 (meningococcal disease) and HPC (human papillomavirus) vaccines.
Starting this year in West Virginia, incoming seventh-graders must have had the MCV4 and Tdap immunizations. It is also required for incoming Mountain State high school seniors who have not had those vaccinations as adolescents.
Betkoski said parents seem to be more diligent about the earlier vaccinations than the teen ones, which haven't been mandated as long.
"It's easy to remember kindergarten shots," she said. "It's hard to remember that as they get to be teenagers, they also need immunizations."
The immunizations are not just important for the health of the students and those around them - including fellow students and vulnerable populations like the very young or elderly - but also for a child's education, Betkoski said.
"Immunizations keep them in school, including a flu shot in the fall," she said.
The county health department offers immunization clinics from 1 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays. The cost is $10, and appointments are not required.
The Marietta City Health Department offers vaccinations from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, with hours extended to 6:30 p.m. the first Monday of each month. No appointments are necessary, and the cost is $7.
At both agencies, no one will be turned away due to inability to pay.