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Debate Heats Up Over Screening Athletes for Sickle Cell Trait
Date:12/28/2012

non-traumatic sports death, in order of occurrence, according to the National Athletic Trainers Association, are heart conditions, heatstroke, sickle cell trait complications and asthma.

Abkowitz also pointed out that the NCAA policy has some unintended consequences. "Some people with sickle cell trait have misunderstood the screening policy and think they can't participate in exercise," she said. "But, regular exercise in a normal form is good and healthy."

A better solution would be to "implement preventive measures that would protect all athletes," she said.

Abkowitz noted that even the U.S. Army has stopped mandatory screening for the sickle cell trait. Instead, they monitor all new recruits undergoing vigorous training for heat illness, adjust the work-rest schedule to the environment and have implemented guidelines for staying well hydrated. And, Army personnel are now trained in recognizing and treating heat illness.

"Our hope is that the NCAA will consider our concerns, note the unintended consequences of their policy and see this as an opportunity to implement preventive measures that would protect all athletes, making universal screening unnecessary," Abkowitz said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about sickle cell trait.

What's the difference between sickle cell disease and sickle cell trait? Find out here.

SOURCES: Robert Dimeff, M.D., medical director, sports medicine, and professor, family medicine, pediatrics and orthopedic surgery, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas; Janis Abkowitz, M.D., head, hematology, University of Washington, Seattle


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