Twenty-one college football players have collapsed and died as a result of training over the past decade. At least eight were carriers of the sickle-cell trait, a genetic disorder that can unpredictably turn deadly during rigorous exercise.
Dr. M. A. Bender, the director of the Odessa Brown Comprehensive Sickle Cell Clinic in Seattle, said scant research had been done on the connection between exercise and the sickle-cell trait.
“There isn’t the data in terms of how often it occurs, what the real risk is, and what underlying factors may be involved,” he said.
Many researchers say the best solution is to use training practices that protect everyone from the risks associated with overexertion. One model is the Army, which no longer screens for the trait but takes across-the-board precautions. Since the change in practices, studies have shown, soldiers with the trait have no higher risk of dying in basic training than those without.
- Carrier status matters, even beyond making reproductive decisions. Whether screening has been demonstrated to save lives or not, wouldn’t you want to know if vigorous exercise made you more apt to keel over and die than most other people?
- Three decades after keeping SCT carriers out of the Air Force Academy, there still “isn’t the data?” How is that possible?
- Gene-environment interactions matter. What we eat, how we train, how we sleep, how we respond to stress, etc. Each of these interacts with our own particular genomes. We will only understand these interactions if we systematically pay attention to them.
- How many other supposedly “recessive” traits can be detected in the heterozygous state with careful observation? I’d bet you dollars to donuts there are hundreds if not thousands of them.