Sickle Cell Trait & Protecting The Student Athlete

African American teen boy running with footballSickle cell trait is among the top killers of athletes in high school and college sports. The words “sickle cell anemia” may ring a bell for many parents of children in athletics.

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But that’s different from sickle cell trait – a condition that may not be on many parents’ radar. African Americans are among the highest carriers of the trait, with about 8 percent of the U.S. Black population having the condition. To have the trait means you’ve inherited one sickle and one normal gene instead of two sickle genes, as those with full-blown sickle cell anemia possess.

The reason why sickle cell trait is so deadly for young athletes is due to the fact that the condition leaves them way more vulnerable to heat stroke and muscle breakdown if they aren’t properly hydrated before practice or a game.

During games of intense practices, those with the sickle cell trait can experience a change in the shape in red blood cells. This blocks the flow of blood to tissues and muscles, which can cause the athlete to collapse or – in severe cases – die.

But this condition doesn’t mean that your child can’t participate in sports. It just means that parents have to step in and make sure their child is taking the proper precautions to keep healthy during play. It’s something that even adult athletes with the sickle cell trait take into consideration.