â†µThe trait, which affects an estimated eight percent of the country's African-American population, causes a condition known as exertional â†µsickling. In as little as two minutes of intense exercise, red blood â†µcells can contort from their normal disc shape into a crescent shape, â†µor the sickle of the syndrome's name. This occludes blood flow in â†µathletes affected by sickle-cell anemia, and when this happens, â†µathletes in any sport can die very quickly. â†µâ†µ
â†µThis was precisely the case with Rice football player Dale Lloyd II, â†µwho died in 2006 after a workout. Lloyd's death and the subsequent â†µlawsuit filed by his family got Rice to test all of their athletes for sickle cell; a similar â†µcase changed policy at Missouri after the death of Aaron O'Neal in 2005. (It should be â†µmentioned that sickle cell in O'Neal's case was not the official cause â†µof death. Outside experts brought in at the trial did suggest it could â†µhave been a contributing factor, however.) Sickle cell was also a factor in the death of UCF football player Ereck â†µPlancher, who collapsed and died following a March 2008 â†µconditioning drill. â†µâ†µ
â†µThe list goes on, but it really doesn't have to continue. Sixty-four percent of â†µschools in 2006 already tested for the trait; what the other 36 percent were â†µdoing at the time in not testing is anyone's guess. The cost of a sickle cell test is around $40 total, far less than â†µthe cost of a good pair of shoulder pads, and certainly less than the â†µattorney's fees from defending the inevitable negligence lawsuit filed â†µwhen a player with the trait dies in the care and custodianship of â†µyour football program. It's not just good medical practice; in â†µlitigious and cash-strapped times, it makes good economic sense for â†µuniversities, too. â†µâ†µ
â†µThat math is known. The tragedy of losing someone so young to â†µsomething that could be spotted with a blood test, however, is â†µincalculable. â†µâ†µ
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.