Program Offering Free Sports Physicals Having Impact on Students in the Classroom

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Teagen O’Brien is ready to start 8th grade at Harding Middle School. He’s smart and funny and really into sports, but before he and his classmates can take the field, they need sports physicals. “It’s rough to make an appointment to get to the doctor’s office,” says Teagen’s mom, “parents have to take time off and they’re losing time when they’re already struggling and then paying for the physicals is hard.”

Ninety-five percent of the students at Harding are food insecure. Thanks to the Iowa Clinic Health Foundation, sports physicals are being offered at six Des Moines schools for free. Student Engagement Coordinator Shannon Camodeca says the program is a game-changer for students.  “This whole program is about helping students transfer skills from the classroom to the playing field and then from the playing field to the classroom.”

Since the pilot program started, the number of kids playing sports at Harding has doubled, leading to a decrease in absenteeism and negative behavior. And during sports physicals, doctors sometimes catch serious health conditions. Volunteer Dr. Neelima Chennupati discovered a student’s heart murmur. “I don’t even know the last time he’d been to a doctor,” she says, “so this can impact students on so many levels.”

The Iowa Clinic offers free physicals three times a year. More information here:


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