2011-2012 NGCSU Athletic Training Sickle Cell Policy
Sickle cell anemia or trait is the inheritance of one gene for sickle hemoglobin and
one for normal hemoglobin. During intense or extensive exertion, the sickle
hemoglobin can change the shape of red blood cells from round to crescent-shaped.
This “sickling” of the red blood cells may put our student athlete in great danger
during intense exercise. Under unusual circumstances, serious morbidity and
mortality can result from complications in the collegiate student athlete that may
include: rupture of the spleen with oxygen deficits or exercise, exertional heat
illness such as exertional rhabdomyolysis (due to muscle break down), heat stroke
or renal failure or sudden death syndrome.
The National Athletic Trainers Association recommends confirming sickle cell trait
status in all athletes prior to participation. As all 50 states screen at birth, this
marker is a base element of personal health information that should be made
readily available to the athlete, the athlete’s parents and the athlete’s health care
Knowledge of sickle cell trait can be a gateway to education and simple precautions
that may prevent sickling collapse and enable athletes with sickle cell trait to thrive
in sport. This complication may result in a decrease of oxygen supply to tissues of
the body. There are not any restrictions to athletic participation, but
recommendations by the NATA have been proposed during exertional exercise for
those individuals with sickle cell trait. Although the consequences can be severe;
sufficient rest, hydration and cooling may be the treatment required to treat most
cases of “exertional sickling”.
Sickling Collapse: Telltale Features
Heat cramping often has a prodrome of muscle twinges; sickling has none
The pain is different; heat cramping is more excruciating
What stops the athlete is different- heat crampers hobble to a halt with
“locked-up” muscles, while sickling players slump to the ground with weak
Physical findings are different- heat crampers writhe and yell in pain, with
muscles visibly contracted and rock hard; whereas, sicklers lie fairly still, not
yelling in pain, with muscles that look and feel normal;
The response is different – sickling players caught early and treated right
recover faster than players with major heat cramping.
NGCSU Recommendations and Treatment of athletes with Sickle Cell Trait.
Due to the recent deaths (9 since 2001) related to sickle cell trait, the NCAA and
NGCSU recommends all student athletes be tested and show proof of sickle cell
status. No sickle cell trait will be disqualified, but knowing who is at risk for sickling
will allow for NGCSU athletic training to properly respond to the situation. There are
three ways in which we can be notified of the absence or acquisition of the sickle cell
1. Have the sickle cell testing completed by your primary care physician and the
results recorded on the attached form. Please return the completed form to
NGCSU athletic training. You will be responsible for any expenses incurred
2. Have the sickle cell testing completed by NGCSU Student Health. The cost is
$5 for initial screening, and $14 for additional testing should the sample
come back positive. This information will be recorded on attached form and
needs to be turned into NGCSU Athletic Training. Testing fees are payable in
the business office.
3. Provide documentation of prior testing completed at birth and the results to
NGCSU athletic training. This information may be acquired from your state
health department or your athlete’s pediatrician. This may be a difficult route
to take due to medical record confidentiality laws.
*** All information presented to NGCSU athletic training will be kept
confidential in accordance to HIPAA mandates.
NGCSU Precautions and Treatment
No sickle trait athlete is ever disqualified, because simple precautions seem to
suffice. It is imperative that we have adequate documentation. For the athlete with
sickle cell trait, the following guidelines should be adhered to:
1. Build up slowly in training with paced progressions, allowing longer periods
of rest and recovery between repetitions.
2. Encourage participation in preseason strength and conditioning programs to
enhance the preparedness of athletes for performance testing which should
be sport specific. Athletes with sickle cell trait should be excluded from
participation in performance tests such as mile runs, serial sprints, etc., as
several deaths have occurred from participation in this setting.
3. Cessation of activity with onset of symptoms [muscle “cramping”, pain,
swelling, weakness, tenderness; inability to “catch breath”, fatigue].
4. If sickle cell trait athletes can set their own pace, they seem to do fine.
5. All athletes should participate in a year round, periodized strength and
conditioning program that is consistent with individual needs, goals, abilities,
and sport specific demands. Athletes with sickle cell trait who perform
repetitive high speed sprints and/or interval training that includes high
levels of lactic acid should be allowed extended recovery between repetitions
since this type of conditioning poses special risk to these athletes.
6. Ambient heat stress, dehydration, asthma, illness and altitude predispose the
athlete with sickle cell trait to an onset of crisis in physical exertion.
a. Adjust work/rest cycles for environmental heat stress
b. Emphasize hydration
c. Control asthma
d. No workout if an athlete with sickle cell trait is ill
e. Watch closely the athlete with sickle cell trait who is new to altitude.
Modify training and have supplemental oxygen available for
7. Educate to create an environment that encourages athletes with sickle cell
trait to report any symptoms immediately; any signs or symptoms such as
fatigue, difficulty breathing, leg or low back pain, or leg or low back cramping
in an athlete with sickle cell trait should be assumed to be sickling.
In the event of a sickling collapse, treat it as a medical emergency:
1. Check vital signs
2. Administer high-flow oxygen, 151pm (if available), with a non-rebreather
3. Cool the athlete if necessary.
4. If the athlete is obtunded or vital signs decline, call 911, attach an AED, start
an IV, and get the athlete to the hospital fast.
5. Tell the doctors to expect explosive rhabdomyolysis and grave metabolic
6. Proactively prepare by having an EAP and appropriate emergency equipment
for all practices and competitions.
Recommendations stem from NATA Consensus Statement: Sickle Cell Trait and the Athlete and the
NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports.
2010-2011 NGCSU Athletic Training Sickle Cell Policy
I ___________________________________ understand the implications of playing sports with
Sickle Cell Trait. I also understand it is in my best interest to be tested for sickle cell
trait. If I have sickle cell trait, I will abide by the precautions set forth in this policy. I
will work with the NGCSU Athletic Training Staff and my coach to develop the best
plan for my continued safe participation in athletics at NGCSU.
I agree to testing or to provide documentation in regards to sickle cell testing.
I refuse testing or to show documentation in regards to sickle cell testing. I also
release NGCSU Athletics and athletic training from any litigious or financial
repercussions should a sickle cell situation present itself .
North GA College & State University
Sickle Cell Testing Form
Sport:____________________________________________ Yr of Eligibility: FR SO JR SR 5th yr
Date of Test: ________________
Please attach the physicians note to this form indicating the results of the test.
Sickle Cell Positive: Yes No Sickle Cell Trait: Yes No
______ Full Sport Participation
______ Limited Sport Participation – Restrictions __________________________________________
______ Conditioning and/or Lifting Only
______ Other ___________________________________________________________________________________
Follow up Appt Date _________________ Time_______________
Physician signature ________________________________________________