Sickle Cell Trait Information

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New NCAA legislation beginning June 25, 2009, recommends that all colleges and universities confirm the Sickle Cell Trait status of all student-athletes. The NCAA’s testing recommendation follows the latest guidelines from the National Athletic Trainers Association and the College of American Pathologists. Both NATA and CAP recommend screening for the Sickle Cell Trait if a student-athlete’s status is not known.

All 50 states screen for hemoglobinopathies at birth, and Sickle Cell Trait is one of these issues. If you are unaware of your status, this information should be available at your family physician or pediatrician’s office.

Sickle Cell Trait is the inheritance of one gene for sickle hemoglobin and one for normal hemoglobin. During intense or extensive exertion, the sickle hemoglobin can change the shape of red blood cells from round to quarter-moon, or “sickle.” This change, called exertional sickling, can pose a grave risk for some athletes.

The sickle gene is common in people whose origin is from areas where malaria is widespread. Over the millennia, carrying one sickle gene fended off death from malaria, leaving 1 in 12 African-Americans with sickle cell trait. The sickle gene is also present in those of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Indian, Caribbean, and South and Central American ancestry.

In the past seven years, exertional sickling has killed nine athletes, ages 12 through 19. Participation is athletics is allowed as long as proper precautions are followed to prevent such instances from occurring.

For more information on Sickle Cell Trait and Athletics please visit:
National Athletic Trainers' Association: Sickle Cell Trait and the Athlete PDF
Sickle Cell Information Center
NCAA: Health and Safety

If you have any questions regarding this information, please contact the athletic department at (716) 880-2130.

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