Sudden Death! Should There Be A Mandate for Sickcle Cell Testing of College Athletes?

3Chics is playing catch up today.  We would be remiss, if we didn’t cover the latest college and university requirements. 



PSYCHE!  Not true, but read on.  You might get where this is leading to.

By Rob Stein Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 20, 2010; 12:19 AM

U.S. colleges and universities for the first time are requiring top student athletes to submit to testing for the gene for sickle-cell anemia, a mandate aimed at preventing sudden deaths of promising young players but stirring deep fears about reviving dangerous old prejudices. 

The screening hopes to identify athletes at high risk for life-threatening complications from intense physical exertion. That way, those with the gene could be monitored more closely and their training could be modified by, for example, allowing more time for rest and drinking more water.

But the prerequisite is evoking some of the most notorious episodes in the nation’s history. While less known than the infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment, for decades blacks were stigmatized by sickle-cell because they carried it far more commonly than whites, marking them as supposedly genetically inferior, barring them from jobs, the military, insurance and even discouraging them from marrying and having children.


“We’re trying to protect the health and well-being of our student athletes,” said Yvette Rooks, the University of Maryland’s team physician, who served on the NCAA committee that recommended the policy. “One death is too many. Anything we can do to prevent it and help people be healthier is important.”  Read more.

The WaPo article lists several  NCAA football players who have died from “OVER EXERTION” on the field.   See photos in article.  Now correct 3Chics if we’re not connecting the dots here.   In researching the history of athletes who have suffered sudden death, I was pressed to readily find any white athletes.

I can understand the need for monitoring one’s health. But let’s slow the roll here, folks. Texas high school  star quarterback, Reggie Garrett dropped dead on the field last Friday night after throwing a touchdown pass.  Sources said he suffered from a history of seizures.  It was an amazingly tragic and sad event, and our prayers go out to his family. 

Law suits, fear, and the will to win games at any cost all factor into this push to mandate testing.  What about the medical, social and psychological toll on the athlete?  Apparently athletes will not have to got through the mandatory screening, if they can provide prove they’ve been tested for sickle cell. 

Why not put all athletes through a rigorous health screening?  Surely sports programs and doctors have enough information to devise a broader health screening program that can be applied to all athletes.  The brain, heart, kidneys, liver,  and lungs are the body’s main organs.  Aren’t all athletes screened for any organ anomalies before being signed on to a sports team?

Bodies, minds, hearts and, spirits.. the athletes very lives are at stake.  Is the bottom line for these screening practices all about the bottom line?

Is the practice of screening for sickle-cell considered discriminatory?  Why not test for Lupus, Parkinson’s disease, prostate cancer, etc.

For further reading, check out these links:

Recent deaths of college athletes have spurred more rigorous sickle-cell screening

How many people die playing sports each year?

New Sickle Cell Screening Program for College Athletes Comes with Serious Pitfalls, Experts Say

 Your thoughts, insights?  Thank you kindly.

This entry was posted in Current Events, Health, Media, Science, Sports and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Sudden Death! Should There Be A Mandate for Sickcle Cell Testing of College Athletes?

  1. Roschelle says:

    I’m not really sure how to feel about this. I want to look at it as a good thing. Although, I understand how some might view it as a hindrance in a person living life to their full potential. The sad reality is that sickle cell disease doesn’t have to be passed on.

    A person with sickle cell disease or sickle cell trait should screen their partner to make sure they don’t carry the trait. If a person with the disease/trait has children by someone who has neither, their offsprings will either be free from the disease completely or ONLY be carriers of the trait. That’s it. Simple, right?

    Wrong. It requires being proactive and responsible as adults bringing children into the world. Something many of us seem to find impossible to do.

    I’ve cared for toddlers, school age children, teenagers and adults with this disease. It’s one of the most painful conditions out there. It’s heart breaking to watch these children hurt. But that’s what we do.

    Being aware and knowing the steps to take prevent passing it on are crucial for our people. If the testing helps with just that aspect, I’m going to have to say – do it.

    • Ametia says:

      Hi Roschelle. Thanks for sharing your insights and experience.You make some valid points. I’m still mulling this one around myself. I too have cared for patients with sickle cell, and it is not pretty. Pumping these folks full of narcotics to help make them comfortable is intense.

      My issue is with singling out certain athletes and mandating they have certain tests. How, Where, and Wdoes it begin and end with?

Leave a Reply