Sickle Cell Trait has been associated with exertional rhabdomyolysis, renal failure, as well as death, and complicating factors include extreme exertion, increased heat, altitude, & dehydration. Over a seven year span, nine athletes participating in NCAA sports died as a complication of sickle cell trait. It is because of this that the NCAA now mandates testing or proof of testing prior to any practice, competition or conditioning.
Q: Why get tested?
A: This test (a blood test) 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.
Q: Is it mandatory that I have the sickle cell trait test?
A: The recommendation of Wake Forest University Sports Medicine is that every student athlete be tested or show proof of prior testing for sickle cell trait. Universal screening is required at birth, yet many student-athletes do not know their status. This testing should be obtained at home prior to the school year. Bring a copy of your test results to your sports physical. If you are unable to obtain a copy of these results, testing will be available on campus. Testing is not mandatory. If you choose to waive testing, you must sign a waiver stating that you understand the importance of testing, have declined, and release Wake Forest University from any liability related to de
Q: What are the next steps/best practices if I test positive?
A: If a test confirms the sickle cell trait; the student-athlete will be offered counseling on the implications of the sickle cell trait, including health, athletics participation, and family planning. Knowledge of sickle cell trait status can be a gateway to education and simple precautions should be taken to minimize health issues. Athletes that are sickle cell trait positive are able to participate in sports, often with no modifications whatsoever.
Q: Who will know that I test positive?
A: Test results will be kept confidential in accordance with the law and WFU policy, although the WFU medical staff and your coaches will need to be aware of your sickle cell status in order to provide optimal care of you during practice, competition and conditioning. Otherwise, your consent will be requested before information is released.
For athletes who carry the sickle cell trait the following simple steps will be taken:
1. The athlete will watch the NCAA educational video about sickle cell trait and athletic participation.
2. The athlete will meet with a team physician to answer any questions and to make sure the athlete understands the issue and the steps he/she needs to take to make remain safe while participating (staying hydrated, recognize early symptoms of heat illness/sickle cell crisis, and report them to sports medicine staff and coaches immediately).
3. Sport and strength/conditioning coaches will be notified of athlete's trait status to ensure that the athlete is allowed access to fluids as needed, is not forced to participate in timed physical tests before becoming acclimated to heat and exertion at the beginning of a season, and any complaints of exhaustion are taken seriously and activity stopped until evaluation by sports medicine staff is completed.
4. Sports medicine staff present at official practices and workouts will monitor the athlete's status closely and encourage adequate hydration. The sports medicine staff will also monitor environmental conditions and possibly limit or halt exercise if risk is determined to be high.