Sickle Cell Trait

What do I need to know about Sickle Cell Trait?


Your athlete may be more susceptible to heat and/or altitude injury. All heat/altitude prevention guidelines must be followed.

All babies are screened for sickle cell trait. See: US National Newborn Screening

Coaches: You must know if any of your athletes has Sickle Cell Trait.

"An important note to head coaches and their staff is that the incidents of sudden death in athletes with sickle cell trait have been exclusive to conditioning sessions rather than game or skill practice situations." (from NCAA Sickle Cell Trait for Coaches)


Sample Preparticipation Physical Examination Questions Related to Exertional Heat Stroke


1. Have you ever previously been diagnosed with exertional heat stroke?

If yes,

a. How long ago?

b. Have you had any complications since then?

c. How long did it take you to return to full participation?

d. Did you have any complications upon your return to play?

e. Was an exercise heat tolerance test conducted to assess your thermoregulatory capacity?


2. Have you ever been diagnosed with heat exhaustion?

If yes,

a. When?

b. How many times?


3. Have you ever had trouble or complications from exercising in the heat (eg, feeling sick, throwing up, dizzy, lack of energy, decreased performance, muscle cramps)?


4. How much training have you been doing recently (in the past 2 weeks)? Has this been performed in warm or humid weather?


5. Have you been training during the last 2 months?

Would you say you are in poor, good, or excellent condition?


6. Describe your drinking habits. (Are you conscious of how much you consume? Is your urine consistently dark?).


Would you consider yourself a heavy or a salty sweater?


8. How many hours of sleep do you get per night?

Do you sleep in an air-conditioned room?


9. Do you take any supplements or ergogenic aids?


Athletes: Don't Get Sidelined by Sickle Cell Trait

"You just have to be aware of the warning signs and complications of exercise-related illness, listen to your body, and take steps to protect yourself."

"While most people with SCT participate in sports without problems, there have been occasional serious complications and even deaths associated with dehydration, overheating, and other avoidable situations. All athletes should be aware of the warning signs of exercise-related illness and know what to do if they experience any of these signs or symptoms."

NATA Consensus Statement Sickle Cell Trait and the Athlete

"The Consensus of this Task Force is:

1) There is no contraindication to participation in sport for the athlete with sickle cell trait.

2) Red blood cells can sickle during intense exertion, blocking blood vessels and posing a grave risk for athletes with sickle cell trait.

3) Screening and simple precautions may prevent deaths and help athletes with sickle cell trait thrive in their sport.


4) Efforts to document newborn screening results should be made during the PPE.


5) In the absence of newborn screening results, institutions should carefully weigh the decision to screen based on the potential to provide key clinical information and targeted education that may save lives.


6) Irrespective of screening, institutions should educate staff, coaches, and athletes on the potentially lethal nature of this condition.


7) Education and precautions work best when targeted at those athletes who need it most; therefore, institutions should carefully weigh this factor in deciding whether to screen. All told, the case for screening is strong."