Sickle Cell Trait

“Sickle cell trait is the inheritance of one gene for sickle hemoglobin and one for normal hemoglobin. During intense or extensive exertion, the sickle hemoglobin can change the shape of red cells from round to quarter-moon, or “sickle”. This change, exertional sickling, can pose grave risk for some athletes.”

“Sickle cells can “logjam” blood vessels and lead to collapse from ischemic rhabdomyolysis, the rapid breakdowns of muscles starved of blood. Major metabolic problems from explosive rhabdomyolysis can threaten life. Sickling can begin in 2-3 minutes of any all-out exertion-and can reach grave levels soon thereafter if the athlete continues to struggle."

"Heat, dehydration, altitude, and asthma can increase the risk for or worsen sickling, even when exercise is not all-out. Despite telltale features, collapse from exertional sickling in athletes is under-recognized and often misdiagnosed. Sickling collapse is a medical emergency.”

“In sickle cell trait, strenuous exercise evokes four forces that in concert foster sickling, 1) severe hypoxemia, 2) metabolic acidosis, 3) hyperthermia in muscles, and 4) red-cell dehydration”

“We recommend confirming sickle cell trait status in all athletes’ pre-participation physical examinations. 

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 healthcare provider, including those providers responsible for determination of medical eligibility for participation in sports. Knowledge of sickle cell trait status can be a gateway to education and simple precautions that may prevent sickling collapse and enable athletes with sickle cell trait to thrive in sport.”  

*The above information is directly from the National Athletic Trainers Association Consensus Statement: Sickle Cell Trait and the Athlete and Harvard University Sports Medicine


*As of January 2011, the test for Sickle Cell Trait is ONLY required at the NCAA Division I Level.

Cheyney University participates in NCAA Division II Athletics

  NCAA Video - Determining Your Sickle Cell Trait Status 



NCAA Fact Sheet for Student-Athletes  

NCAA Sports Medicine Handbook