Sickle Cell Trait Screening
Beginning in August 2013, new NCAA legislation requires that schools must provide education regarding sickle-cell trait for all students-athletes and provide additional mandatory education for those that do not confirm their status. In addition, schools must confirm the sickle cell trait status of incoming student-athletes before participation in intercollegiate athletics in one of the following manners:
- Documentation: The student-athlete may provide documented results of a sickle cell solubility test administered before participation;
- Pending documentation: A student-athlete who has taken a sickle cell solubility test but whose results are not yet confirmed may participate provided the student-athlete engages in mandatory education, signs a waiver and receives appropriate precautions as set forth by the institution; or
- Opt-out: The student-athlete may sign a waiver declining confirmation of sickle cell trait status. Before signing a waiver, the student-athlete shall be provided education regarding the implications of exercising the waiver option. Before athletics participation, a student-athlete who signs a waiver under this provision shall engage in mandatory education regarding sickle cell trait status and receive accommodations as determined by the institution.
While many babies born in the United States are screened for sickle cell diseases, many student-athletes and their families are unaware of the test results and status. Some students may be able to obtain their newborn screening test results by contacting the medical provider who performed the screening. Unless medical records can clearly document that a student-athlete does not have Sickle Cell Trait, the student-athlete should consider screening.
Sickle Cell Trait (HgbAS):
- Sickle cell trait is the inheritance of an abnormal gene which can cause deformation (“sickling”) of the red blood cell, along with a normal gene for hemoglobin.
- Typically a benign inherited condition without obvious hematologic manifestations (i.e. does not cause anemia).
- Approximately one in every 12 African-Americans has sickle cell trait, (compared to ~ one in 2,000 to 12,000 white Americans). The gene for sickle cell trait is also present in individuals of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Indian, Caribbean and South / Central American ancestry.
- Approximately 2.5 million people in the US and 300 million in the world have sickle sell trait.
- Serious complications are rare in sickle cell trait, but include:
- Increased risk for sudden death during prolonged physical conditioning and during exercise at high altitude, presumably in association with rhabdomyolysis
- Splenic infarction can develop at high altitude
- Bloody urine
- Risk of venous thromboembolism (blood clots) among African-Americans with sickle cell trait appears to be 2-4 times that of African-Americans without this condition.
- Athletes who test positive for Sickle Cell Trait do not have to quit their sport, but would meet with the Coach, Athletic Trainer and Team Physician to discuss training strategies to prevent medical emergencies.
- More information on Sickle Cell Trait is available at the NCAA’s Sickle Cell Trait webpage.
Why get tested? The sickle cell trait test (SST) is relatively easy to perform, and can provide educational information that can be helpful to you both on and off the field. It is helpful to know your sickle cell status and can allow health care professionals to take better care of you. If you were born in the U.S., your testing results may be available in your medical record.
What happens if I test positive? Athletes that are sickle cell trait positive are able to participate in sports, often with no modifications whatsoever. Individuals that test positive for sickle cell trait will have a confirmatory test performed, and if positive, will be counseled on what can be done to avoid complications.
Who will know that I test positive? Your coaches and the medical staff need to be aware of your sickle cell status in order to provide optimal care of you during practice, competition and conditioning. Outside of this, you will be asked if and who this information can be released to.
Is it mandatory that I have the sickle cell trait test? The recommendation is that every student-athlete be tested or show proof of prior testing for sickle cell trait. If you have not had the test and wish to be tested, you should arrange to be tested prior to arriving on campus. Testing is not mandatory.
How do I opt-out of testing? If you choose not to undergo testing, or not to provide testing results to the College, you must sign a waiver. If you are under age 18, you may select the waiver form at this link: Sickle-cell Waiver. Print and have your parents or guardians sign this waiver form, then return it to Parton Center for Health and Wellness – the address is on the form.
If you are 18 or older, you will receive instructions within the next few weeks on how to use our Student Health Portal to sign the waiver. Using the Student Health Portal will allow you to sign the waiver on-line, and you will not need to mail the form to us.