Sickle Cell May Be A Hidden Danger to Young Athletes
these types of ramifications,” said Galloway, head athletic trainer at DeSoto High School in DeSoto, Texas. “We’re still trying to get more focus on the condition.”
SCT is a cousin of the better-known sickle cell anemia, in which red blood cells shaped like sickles, or crescent moons, can get stuck in small blood vessels around the body, blocking the flow of blood and oxygen. Both conditions are inherited, but exertional sickling only occurs upon intense physical activities, such as sprinting or conditioning drills.
The first known sickling death in college football was in 1974, when a defensive back from Florida collapsed at the end of a 700-meter sprint on the first day of practice that season and died the next day.
Devard Darling, a wide receiver for the Omaha Nighthawks, lost his twin brother, Devaughn, from complications of SCT in 2001.
“We both learned we had sickle cell trait during our freshman year at Florida State,” Darling told NATA. “But even knowing the risks at the time, my brother died on the practice field before his 19th birthday.”
All 50 states now require SCT screening for newborns, which is done with simple blood tests, but not all high school athletes know their SCT status. Galloway said he would like to make testing mandatory for high school athletes, adding that the National Collegiate Athletic Association requires testing for the trait at the college level.
“Our stance is we want to know so we can treat them in the best way possible,” Galloway said. “We have never seen someone disallowed from sports because of SCT. If anything, we have seen kids thrive in their