DES MOINES, Iowa — A bill in the Iowa Senate would require high school athletes to undergo further testing before hitting the field or court, potentially saving their lives.

If it becomes law, the bill would make every high school athlete in the state receive a physical cardiac examination.

Right now, they’re only required to have an annual physical before playing sports. The bill would add the heart exam to that check-up.

UnityPoint Health cardiologist Dr. Edward Rojas said the exam can be done in the pediatrician’s office during an annual physical. It probably wouldn’t take very long. The doctor would ask a series of questions about what sport their patient plays, whether they’re experiencing certain symptoms like shortness of breath, and their family history.

Rojas said if there’s something concerning during the cardiac exam, the doctor can refer the patient for further testing.

“Some patients may have underlying structural heart disease and they may have no symptoms that would be identified by just doing regular activities,” he said. “But if the patient’s been involved in physical activities and sports just for recreational purposes, they may have identified some symptoms that would trigger further testing.”

Rojas said even if the bill does not become law, parents of student-athletes should still insist their kids get a cardiac exam. It’s important they tell their kids’ pediatrician what sport they play because that can determine what questions the doctor asks.