“Having the sickle cell trait does not exclude an athlete from participating in sports, however, the training staff and coaches need to take precautions to ensure the athlete is not put in dangerous situations.” Geno Atkins Cincinnati Bengals National Football League
Fall sports season has arrived and just in time for Sickle Cell Awareness Month!
Athletes at all levels, including high school, collegiate, Olympic and professional, can be affected with sickle cell trait. It’s important for athletes to be aware of their sickle cell trait status and take proper precautions during their training and conditioning so they can enjoy a successful and healthy athletic career.
What is Sickle Cell Trait?
Sickle cell trait is not a disease; it is inherited from a person’s parents. People who inherit one sickle cell gene and one normal gene have sickle cell trait. People with sickle cell trait usually do not have any of the symptoms of sickle cell disease, but they can pass the trait on to their children. Sickle cell trait affects people of many races and ethnicities, including those of African, Asian, Hispanic, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern descent.
Should athletes be tested for sickle cell trait?
It is important for all Americans, including those involved in competitive athletics, to know whether they have sickle cell trait. If athletes do not know whether they have sickle cell trait, they should get voluntary testing to find out. However, counseling and/or testing for sickle cell should be done in a confidential manner, by a physician, and should occur before training and competition so athletes can understand the medical and genetic consequences of having sickle cell trait. If a screening test is positive for sickle cell trait, the athlete should consult with a genetic counselor or their physician to learn how it can affect their life, including health, athletics and family planning.
What are the complications for athletes with sickle cell trait?