Sickle Cell Trait in Athletes

Sickle cell trait is a condition in which a person inherits an abnormal gene from a parent(s) that causes red blood cells to mutate and contort into a sickle cell trait. An individual may be a carrier and not present symptoms but can pass them along to future generations.

In athletics, we are more commonly seeing athletes who have the sickle cell trait but do not know until they present with symptoms during intense training or competing.

Sickle cell is more prevalent in African Americans and can be life threatening. It is important for athletes to be tested prior to participating in athletics in the event an episode occurs the athlete can inform their athletic trainer that they are experiencing symptoms.

Heat, dehydration, inadequate acclimatization, altitude, and even asthma can increase the risk of complications in athletes who are affected by the trait.

It is important to take precaution if you suspect you or your athlete may have sickle cell in order to reduce any risks that may lead to them sickling under extreme conditions.