High school and college students from around the country are dying from seemingly normal workouts and drills. The eerie detail that is common in these deaths is that many of them do not know they have the disease that is killing them: sickle cell anemia.

Sickle cell anemia is a hereditary disease that deforms normal, oval-shaped blood cells. This abnormality restricts the oxygen that blood takes to body tissues. This can cause fatigue, breathlessness and chest pain.

Football coach Phillip Ziglar believes that deaths can be avoided if coaches simply monitor their players for signs of unusual fatigue and provide ample water breaks.

“The first thing I have to do as a head coach is to make sure that my assistant coaches know what to see, like seeing kids slow down and not move or react as quickly after a water break,” Ziglar said.

Sickle cell trait must be inherited from both parents in order to cause symptoms. Meanwhile single trait carriers have no side effect and can unknowingly pass the trait on to their children.

Sickle cell is more common in people with African and Mediterranean descent.

Recently, problems have arisen with students who are unaware that they have the disease until they go through intense training drills, putting them at a life threatening risk.

The Orlando Sentinel reported nine college football players and 17 other high school and college athletes have died from sickle cell related complications since 2000.

With clear warning signs, coaches have a responsibility to keep their players safe, according to trainer Sarah Coelho.

“If the coaches are aware of their kids conditions, they should be able to push them to an extent but need to know where to stop,” Coelho said.

The recent deaths have caused a shift which may make future athletes safer. A law suit following the death of Dale Lloyd, a football player at Rice University in Houston Texas, now requires the National Collegiate Athletic Association to screen all Division 1 athletes for the trait. However, there are currently no required screenings for high school athletes.

Additionally, some students are hesitant to tell their coaches of their condition, fearing they will be benched, increasing the danger of sickle cell deaths.

“It’s a scary thought, [that students wouldn’t tell us about their condition] but our coaches and staff do a good job making sure everyone gets proper rest whether they have a good condition or not,” Coelho said.


By admin

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