Sep 8, 2015
Sickle Cell Trait Cited in HS Death

Exercise-induced complications of sickle cell trait were declared the cause of death for a high school football player in July. Joshua Warren of Pine Tree High School in Longview, Texas passed away only 24 hours after a training session.

“Exertional sickling” can occur after prolonged exertion, when sickled blood cells form blocks within blood vessels, leading to decreased blood flow and muscle breakdown. As reported in The Longview-News Journal, it is not clear whether or not coaches knew Warren had sickle cell trait, a hereditary condition that has become the third-leading cause of non-traumatic death in high school and college athletes.


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In a policy statement, the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) argues for more communication between health providers and patients. While all children are screened for sickle cell trait at birth, many do not know if they have it by the time they reach high school, which makes self-identification during pre-participation exams unreliable. 

“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 provider, including those providers responsible for determination of medical eligibility for participation in sports,” NATA’s policy states.

The association says that 64 percent of NCAA Division I-A schools screen for sickle cell trait. They also reported in 2012 that exertional sickling had caused the deaths of nine athletes ages 12 through 19 from 2005 to 2012.

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