Jan 29, 2015
Bulletin Board

Developments in Sickle Cell Testing

At January’s NCAA convention, Division II voted to join Division I in testing its athletes for the sickle cell trait (SCT). However, in Division III, a series of logistical concerns, including the cost and timing of the testing, resulted in delegates referring the proposal back to the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports.

“Our concerns are the immediate consequences it would have on our fall sport student-athletes and not allowing enough time for testing and acquiring the results, and the possible effects on their eligibility,” Vassar College Athletics Director Sharon Beverly told NCAA.org.

Soon after Division II passed its testing legislation, the American Society of Hematology (ASH), spoke out against the NCAA testing rules. The group said in a statement that it believes the NCAA policy “attributes risk imprecisely, obscures consideration of other relevant risk factors, fails to incorporate appropriate counseling, and could lead to stigmatization and racial discrimination.” The ASH suggests a larger focus on counseling and support, and recommends a more universal approach to manage risk, such as the one implemented by the U.S. Army. The Army no longer tests for SCT, and instead has implemented preventative measures like hydration and acclimatization guidelines for all recruits in training.

Additionally, University of Michigan researchers caution that testing alone is not enough to prevent athletes from dying of complications associated with SCT. Using estimates based on published attributable risks, researchers said in a recent study that with the current testing system, more than 2,000 D-I athletes will be identified as SCT carriers but that without intervention, seven athletes will die within 10 years as a result of complications from SCT.

“Although the NCAA policy is well-intentioned, screening is just the first step,” study co-author Beth Tarini, MD, told Science Daily. “In addition to educating athletes and staff, precautionary measures need to be strictly enforced… Implementing policies to identify those at risk provides a false sense of security if we aren’t diligent about monitoring and protecting the health and safety of our student-athletes.”

To read the abstract of the study “A Policy Impact Analysis of the Mandatory NCAA Sickle Cell Trait Screening Program,” go to: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/guide and search the study title.

To read the ASH statement on the NCAA screening policy, go to: www.hematology.org/advocacy and click on “Policy Statements.”

Athletes and Arthritis Risk

Can participation in elite-level impact sports put athletes at greater risk for osteoarthritis (OA) when compared to their peers who exercise infrequently? A study published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine in December says that when it comes to knee and hip OA, the answer is yes.

Researchers questioned 709 retired male athletes in Sweden who ranged in age from 50 to 93 and 1,368 men in the same age range who said they rarely exercised–if at all–throughout their lives. The retired athletes in the study had participated in sports at either the professional or Olympic levels, and the majority played impact sports such as ice hockey or soccer. A smaller percentage participated in non-impact activities like swimming and cycling.

According to the study, the former athletes had a higher prevalence of knee or hip OA when compared to the non-athletes. The former athletes experienced OA at a rate of 30 percent versus 19 percent for the non-athletes.

John Wilson, MD, Team Physician at the University of Wisconsin, who was not part of the study, says that while elite athletes who play impact sports may indeed be at a higher risk for developing OA when they get older, that doesn’t mean they should forgo their sport. “Playing a sport offers so many benefits like cardiovascular fitness, lower rates of obesity, and lower blood pressure, not to mention other benefits like confidence building and teamwork that comes from being on a team,” he told Reuters Health.

To view the abstract of the study “Former Male Elite Athletes Have a Higher Prevalence of Osteoarthritis and Arthroplasty in the Hip and Knee Than Expected,” go to: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/guide and search the study title.

Supplement May Reduce Muscle Damage

Long distance runners may be able to get a boost from daily supplementation of the co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10). According to a study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, ultra-marathon runners who took CoQ10 capsules containing 30 milligrams of the enzyme starting two days before a 50 kilometer run experienced a decrease in the amount of creatinine their bodies excreted. Since high levels of creatinine are an indicator of muscle breakdown, CoQ10 may allow better training and/or performances.

In the study, 10 runners took one capsule of CoQ10 two days before the run, three capsules the day before, and one capsule an hour before beginning. The control group was given placebos at the same intervals. The study authors concluded that “CoQ10 supplementation reduces creatinine excretion and therefore decreases muscle damage during physical performance.”

Although CoQ10 is naturally synthesized in the body, the amount produced decreases significantly as individuals enter their 40s. The runners who took the supplement had an average age of 41, and stood to benefit from supplementation more than younger runners whose bodies are still synthesizing normal levels of CoQ10.

In addition to lower levels of creatinine, runners who took the supplements were able to counter the over-expression of pro-inflammatory compounds after exercise. They also had a smaller increase in levels of 8-OHdG, a molecule that can be an indicator of DNA damage as a result of oxidative stress. To view the abstract of the study “Coenzyme Q10 Supplementation Ameliorates Inflammatory Signaling and Oxidative Stress Associated with Strenuous Exercise,” go to: www.spectracell.com and search the study title.

Hair Cuts for Charity

Fans at SUNY Cortland’s men’s basketball game on Dec. 3 were treated to a unique sight. At halftime, the Red Dragons’ gym turned into a makeshift barbershop, as the Cortland College Student Athletic Trainers’ Association (CCSATA) engaged in a head shaving halftime show that raised money for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a charity that supports childhood cancer research.

A dozen Cortland athletic training students and six staff members got new hairdos, but the two who raised the most money got their locks shorn at center court. The staff member who ended up raising the most money, Steven Meyer, threw down a gauntlet the week before the event and agreed to join in and get his hair shaved off if the students doubled the $1,500 they had raised to that point.

The event was organized by Patrick Donnelly, ATC, an Athletic Trainer and Clinical Instructor at Cortland. Students and staff solicited donations from friends and family in the weeks leading up to the head-shaving spectacle. Money continued to come in the day of and even after the event. Overall, the school raised a total of $4,000.

The CCSATA got a pair of stylists from a local salon to do the cutting, and although Meyer admitted to being nervous prior to the event, he knew going bald would set an example for the students in the department. “I used to have an afro and I’ve lost a lot of hair over the years,” he told the school’s Web site. “I never had the guts to shave my head. Then when this came along, I thought, ‘There’s no better reason to do it.’

“We’re really trying to get the kids comfortable with the giving portion of their lives,” he continued. “We have to make sure we think about the people who aren’t as healthy.”

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