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Know Your Status – A Sickle Cell Solution

If you have a student-athlete headed to their first year of college or university, then you probably have a lot on your mind. You’ll be figuring out what supplies they’ll need as they start this exciting new chapter in their lives. You and your student both could struggle with mixed emotions of excitement and anxiety about the unknowns of the upcoming semester. With so much going on, it might be very easy to forget about NCAA rules concerning student-athletes and the required Sickle Cell Screening.

What is Sickle Cell?

So let’s start with a reminder about what sickle cell is. Sometimes referred to as sickle cell anemia, sickle cell disease is actually a group of inherited red blood cell disorders. Healthy red blood cells are round and move around your body carrying vital oxygen. It’s not the same for sickle cell disease sufferers. Their red blood cells have a “C” shape to them, sort of like a farm tool called a “sickle,” hence the name. But these cells don’t just look different; they act differently as well. The sickle cells are hard and often clump together in small blood vessels causing problems with blood flow. Sickle cells also die sooner than healthy red blood cells, which means your body can be in a constant shortage of red blood cells. That can lead to a wide variety of issues ranging from something as mild as fatigue to something as serious as stroke. And it turns out, student-athletes are at particular risk.

Competitive Athletes at Risk

Newborn babies should be screened for sickle cell status shortly after birth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Testing shows if you have sickle cell disease (SCD) or if you have sickle cell trait (SCT). A diagnosis of sickle cell disease is important because an early diagnosis means doctors can watch for and help manage symptoms which can range from mild to severe.

On the other hand, you can have sickle cell trait and never show any physical symptoms at all. The danger comes when a person with SCT puts their body under extreme conditions — like those often encountered by student-athletes. That’s why the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) took action:

“While sickle cell trait is not a barrier to playing competitive sports, athletes with sickle cell trait have experienced significant physical distress, including collapse and death during intense exercise. Heat, dehydration, inadequate acclimatization, altitude, and asthma can increase the risk for medical complications in athletes with sickle cell trait.”

Because sickle cell trait can be present with zero symptoms, it’s a silent threat that can have deadly consequences. It’s why a Sickle Cell Screening is required for all student-athletes and why Any Lab Test Now is happy to provide this valuable service.

If you’re a student-athlete, and if your sickle cell screening wasn’t performed at birth or if the results are unknown, the Sickle Cell Screening is available for your convenience and your safety at Any Lab Test Now. Knowing your status can allow coaches and doctors to work with athletes to prevent complications and take the necessary precautions.

Do You Know Your Status?

According to the CDC, the occurrence of sickle cell trait varies greatly from state to state, and among different races and ethnicities. While primarily an issue affecting African-Americans, there are cases in the Hispanic, Caucasian, and Asian communities. Still, the CDC says that many are unaware of their personal sickle cell status, and that puts people at risk. Any Lab Test Now knows that being informed means being in control of your health.