Sickle cell anemia affects young athletes - WDAM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports

Sickle cell affects young athletes

Sickle cell anemia is a very common genetic blood disorder. About 100 children in South Carolina are born with sickle cell anemia every year.

Sickle cell is a blood-related disorder where red blood cells from an abnormal crescent or sickle shape. In South Carolina there are about 2000 children born each year with just the sickle cell trait.

"Sickle cell trait, we were taught, would not cause you any trouble at all unless you were to have a baby with someone else who had the trait. Then you have a 25 percent chance of having a child with sickle cell disease," Dr. Benji Rodgers said.

In recent years, Dr. Rodgers says more information about having the sickle cell trait has come to light. Former football player Ja'Quayvin Smalls collapsed and died during an off season workout at Western Carolina University in 2009.

In 2011, High School Freshman Tyquan Brantley died after practice. Coroner's reports say both athletes had the sickle cell trait.

"When a child or athlete is pushed too far, they tend to behave like they are having a sickle cell crisis, where their muscles start to break down," Dr. Rodgers said.

Dr. Rodgers says sickle cell trait has become the number one cause of death in athletes in NCAA sports in the past 10 years. Dr. Rodgers says deaths caused by the sickle cell trait can be avoided with more education on how to manage it.

"If they are allowed to rest, they recalibrate and do great and they are able to run 10 minutes. Later, the trouble athletes have gotten into is that they have the strength coach saying 'Go' and these are not the people you want to go," he explained. "They need to have their rest and then they will be fine."

Eight percent of African-Americans have the trait along with four percent of people of other races.

Dr. Rodgers says knowing if your child has the trait is as simple as asking their pediatrician. That way trainers will know how to better handle your child.

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