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

hawks, 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 sports more because we have (interventional strategies)."

Often mistaken for cardiac or heat collapse, sickling is marked by subtle differences in athletes' muscle tone and response, and collapse is usually not instantaneous. Simple precautions include progressing slowly in pace during training and stopping immediately if symptoms such as muscle cramping, pain or swelling occur along with weakness or fatigue.

"It's an intensity syndrome ... they don't have symptoms unless they do something too intense or physically active," said Dr. Brock Schnebel, head physician for University of Oklahoma athletics. "At high levels of athleticism, those kids experience symptoms because they have pushed themselves hard. The idea is to improve the margin of safety for the athlete any way you can. Identify it and be cautious with it."

What's needed, Galloway said, is a climate "that encourages coaches to set the right tone with these student-athletes. I have several kids here who condition and practice with their peers and they don't have a problem. They learn to respond to their body."

As with sickle cell anemia, SCT affli
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