College athletes should get sickle cell trait tests, NCAA advises

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Text of College athletes should get sickle cell trait tests, NCAA advises

  • C ollege sports programs should testthose participants who do notknow their sickle cell trait status,the National Collegiate AthleticAssociation (NCAA) advises.

    NCAA made the recommendationin June 2009 as part of resolution of alawsuit by the family of a RiceUniversity football player who had sick-le cell trait and died in 2006 shortly aftera practice. The condition contributed to

    his death and was unknown prior tothat practice and subsequent testing.

    Most of todays college athleteswere born prior to programs offeringwidespread screening for either sicklecell disease or sickle cell trait. Currently,state newborn screening programs pri-marily aim to find full-blown diseaseand do not always contact parentswhose infants have sickle cell trait.

    Sickle cell trait differs from themuch more serious sickle cell disease.The roughly 2.5 million Americans withsickle cell traitincluding 10% ofAfrican Americansonly occasionallyexperience health problems, includingblood in the urine and some bloodclumping at high altitudes. Sickle celltrait puts athletes at risk for exertionalsickling, in which intense exercise caus-

    es deformation of blood cells, decreas-ing blood flow to muscles and causingthem to deteriorate rapidly.

    The National Athletic TrainersAssociation (NATA) has recorded 12sports-related deaths from exertionalsickling, mostly among college footballplayers, since 2000.

    NCAAs statement is based on pre-vious recommendations from both theCollege of American Pathologists and

    NATA. The organizations suggest edu-cation for trainers and athletes withsickle cell trait so they can learn to spotsickling symptoms immediately. Theseinclude fatigue, difficulty breathing,and leg or low back pain or cramping.Heat stress, dehydration, asthma, ill-ness, and altitude predispose trainingathletes with sickle trait to exertionalsickling, according to NATA.

    Repetitive sprints or interval train-ing induce high lactic acid levels and arevery risky for athletes with sickle celltrait, NATA notes. It suggests that ifthese athletes are unaccustomed to highaltitudes but must compete in such con-ditions, extended recovery time andsupplemental oxygen be made available.

    DOI 10.1002/ajmg.a.33281 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

    NEWS FLASHCOLLEGE ATHLETES SHOULD GET SICKLE CELLTRAIT TESTS, NCAA ADVISESMany athletes born prior to screening programs start

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    Sickle cell trait putsathletes at risk for

    exertional sickling,in which intenseexercise causes

    deformation of bloodcells, decreasingblood flow to

    muscles and caus-ing them to deterio-

    rate rapidly.

    A paper in the Journal of GeneticCounseling [Schneider et al., 2009]makes specific suggestions for recruitingmore African Americans to the genetic coun-seling profession, noting that AfricanAmericans make up just over 12% of the USpopulation, but only 1% of the membershipof the National Society of Genetic Counselors.

    Because patients often seek healthcarefrom providers who share similar ethnic back-grounds, training genetic counselors from adiversity of ethnicities is critica l, sayresearchers from the University of Cincinnati

    in Ohio and Baptist Centers forCancer Care in Memphis,Tennessee.

    Based on survey responsesfrom 552 psychology and biolo-gy students, the researchers rec-ommend overcoming barriers toprogram admission and enroll-ment, including lower gradepoint averages and incomes.They suggest altering programsadmission criteria to stress lead-ership activities and interviewsover grades and standardizedtest scores, better publicizingscholarships and other financialaid, and stressin g the waysgenetic counselors can help oth-

    ers and give back to their communities.Recruitment materials should note variedsalaries according to experience, specialty,and work setting, as well as opportunitiesthat feature flexible work schedules.

    Also important is making AfricanAmerican students aware of the genetic coun-seling profession before college. AfricanAmerican high school students should getopportunities to both learn about the profes-sion and meet genetic counselors, theresearchers recommend.

    ReferenceSchneider KW, Collins R, Huether C, Warren NS.2009. A cross sectional study exploring factorsimpacting recruitment of African American col-lege students into the genetic counseling profes-sion. J Genet Couns 18:494506.

    DOI 10.1002/ajmg.a.33282 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.