Is football worth surrendering genetic privacy for generations?

The NCAA mandated testing 170,000 athletes for the sickle cell trait because of a lawsuit following the death of a freshman in 2006. See the Washington Post article: Sickle cell testing of athletes stirs discrimination fears

The NCAA apparently did not consider the effect of testing on students’ future employment, even though carrying the sickle cell trait has long been a cause of discrimination.

Better training and monitoring of athletes could help prevent the deaths of athletes with other health problems besides the sickle cell trait, and prevent exposing athletes’ entire families to discrimination.

Quotes:

  • for decades blacks were stigmatized by sickle cell because they carried it far more commonly than whites, marking them as supposedly genetically inferior, barring them from jobs, the military, insurance and even discouraging them from marrying and having children.
  • Since 2000, as many as 10 Division I college football players who had the trait without knowing it have died suddenly following workouts.
  • “What doesn’t exist is scientific data to support the screening,” said Elliott Vichinsky, director of hematology-oncology at Children’s Hospital in Oakland and director of the Northern California Sickle Cell Center. “There are a lot of other people at risk for heat-related illness from exertion.”
  • The best solution, they argue, would be better monitoring, training and care for all athletes – a strategy that worked for the military.
  • “If you want to protect people, there’s an easy way to do that: change the training protocol for everyone,” said Lanetta Jordan, the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America’s chief medical officer.