Even though it is students who will be taking the field as extracurricular school activities begin, doctors at Baylor College of Medicine say parents play an important role in keeping their kids safe.

"When we perform student sports physicals we are looking for health issues like musculoskeletal problems, indications of past injuries or potentially serious heart conditions," said Dr. John Rogers, professor and interim chair of the department of family and community medicine at BCM. "However, what a physical exam can't identify are medical problems that run in families. That is why a parent's input is important."

Gathering important information

Family health history, especially heart illnesses, is important information for doctors to know during an exam. A certain type of heart murmur and rapid heart beats can be detected during a physical, but the exam can't determine if past family members have heart problems or if anyone has died suddenly due to cardiac problem.

"Being able to add that information to the exam will help us know whether the student-athlete should undergo an EKG (echocardiogram), or ultrasound for a more in-depth examination," Rogers said.

Parent's knowledge of their child's previous injuries can also be helpful. Teens may downplay an injury, because they don't want it to prevent them from taking part in their favorite sport. However, a parent might remember lasting effects that will help doctors determine the severity of the injury.

Past injuries

"Knowing about past injuries is important," Rogers said. For example, a physician should know about previous concussions, because if a student-athlete sustains another one, it could cause lasting damage.

Rogers said other issues that cannot be detected during a physical are light-headedness or shortness of breath that is not proportionate to the exertion level of the activity. Parents should keep an eye out for these issues and let their doctor know at the time of the physical exam.

"These could be signs of exercise-induced asthma or other lung or heart problems that need to be addressed," Rogers said. "This information will allow us to make better decisions that will affect the teen's future wellness."