One priority of the USSA Medical program is to protect the health of the athlete. In the last few years the prevention of injuries and illnesses has been on the agenda of the entire USSA High Performance Department. During the last several years the IOC has run injury surveillance systems at both summer and winter games. These studies are prerequisites for providing evidence for health development in sports as well for developing prevention programs. Another method to decrease injuries and diseases in athletes is to perform a pre-participation examination (PPE) or periodic health evaluation (PHE).
The PHE can serve many purposes. These include a comprehensive assessment of the athlete’s current health status and risk of future injury or disease, and typically is an entry point for medical care of the athlete. The main purpose of the PHE is to screen for injuries or medical conditions that may place an athlete at risk for safe participation.
Screening is a strategy used in a population to detect a disease in individuals without signs or symptoms of that disease. The intention is to identify pathologic conditions early, thus enabling earlier intervention and management. Although screening may lead to an earlier diagnosis, not all screening programs have been shown to benefit the person being screened.
The U.S. Ski and Snowboard teams employ a PHE with all of the national team members based on the recommendations of the IOC. This PHE includes a medical history as well as a comprehensive medical exam with follow up for those areas that are indicated.
Our recommendation to the USSA club system is that participating athletes complete a PHE and are cleared by a qualified healthcare provider for participation in their chosen sport.
Below are resources to consider in adopting a policy for the PHE. As part of the medical history and exam, attention is directed to several biologic systems, including but not limited to Cardiac, Pulmonary, Orthopedic, and Ophthalmologic screening.
USSA medical has taken an increased interest in Ophthalmologic screening in the past year. Below is a questionnaire and screening protocols developed by the NATA (National Athletic Trainers Society) and the Sports Vision Section of the American Optometric Association. The screening protocol can be performed by a healthcare professional and can give feedback and referrals if needed.