Staff Report

The back-to-school season is here and student athletes are preparing to return to fall sports. Along with clothing and gear, they will likely have another necessity: a sports clearance physical exam.

A sports physical exam is required by many schools and organizations before students can secure a spot on a team, and oftentimes it’s needed ahead of tryouts. Why are these exams so important?

“The most important thing we look for is cardiac anomalies, which could be a problem when athletes are over-exerting themselves,” said Amanda Tuel, nurse practitioner lead at Cottage Urgent Care. “We listen to the heart to check for murmurs and irregular beats. We also check their pulse for any asymmetry.”

Clinicians will examine joints and reflexes, review the student’s medical history and note any recent health changes and concerns.

“We also look for signs of Type 1 diabetes,” Tuel said. “The symptoms of being overly thirsty, hungry and tired can masquerade as nothing out of the ordinary for athletes doing rigorous training.”

To help meet the demand for sports physicals ahead of the fall season, Cottage Urgent Care is offering a reduced rate of $49 for the exam until Sept. 30.

Nurse practitioners at Cottage Urgent Care are available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. 365 days a year. Appointments are encouraged but walk-ins are welcome. For appointments and more information, visit

The not-for-profit Cottage Health is the leader in providing advanced medical care to the Central Coast region. Specialties include the Cottage Children’s Medical Center, Level 1 Trauma Center, Neuroscience Institute, Heart & Vascular Center, Center for Orthopedics, and Rehabilitation Hospital. The Cottage Health medical staff is comprised of more than 700 physicians, many with subspecialties typically found only at university medical centers. Last year, the Cottage Health hospitals in Goleta, Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez Valley provided inpatient care for 21,000 people, treated 80,000 patients through their 24-hour emergency departments and helped deliver 2,100 newborns. Cottage Health also offers Cottage Urgent Care Centers throughout the tri-counties, as well as 24-hour access to providers via Cottage Virtual Care, an online service for common conditions.