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Sickle Cell May Be Hidden Danger to Young Athletes
Date:12/18/2010

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Dec. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Scott Galloway's perspective as a high school athletic trainer changed the day a 14-year-old female basketball player at his school suffered sudden cardiac arrest and died on the court.

Her cause of death -- exertional sickling, a condition that causes multiple blood clots -- was something Galloway had only heard of as a student years before. But he quickly made it his mission to educate others about this complication of sickle cell trait (SCT).

In the past four decades, exertional sickling has killed at least 15 football players in the United States, and in the past seven years alone, it was responsible for the deaths of nine young athletes aged 12 to 19, according to the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA). This year, two young football players have died from exertional sickling, said Galloway, a speaker at last week's NATA's Youth Sports Safety Crisis Summit in Washington, D.C.

"I've spoken to numerous groups in the last five years and I tend to be met with the same response -- that they didn't realize this was a big deal or that it had 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 Night
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