Perspectives and Practices of Athletic Trainers and Team Physicians Implementing the 2010 NCAA Sickle Cell Trait Screening Policy

J Genet Couns. 2017 Dec;26(6):1292-1300. doi: 10.1007/s10897-017-0107-6. Epub 2017 Jun 3.


Sickle cell trait (SCT) is usually benign. However, there are some conditions that may lead to SCT-related problems and put athletes with the trait at particular risk. In 2010 the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) issued a policy that required all Division I (DI) student-athletes to confirm their SCT status or sign a liability waiver to opt out of testing. Athletic trainers and team physicians play key roles in the policy implementation and we examined their perceptions and practices. Between December 2013 and March 2014 we interviewed 13 head athletic trainers and team physicians at NCAA Division I colleges and universities in North Carolina. We used an interview guide with open-ended questions covering knowledge of SCT, historical screening and education practices, current implementation, and policy benefits and challenges. Participants were knowledgeable about SCT and thought the policy was beneficial in providing SCT health information to and for student-athletes. Schools varied in provision of genetic counseling, offering the waiver, SCT tests administered, and other aspects. Challenges included: insufficient guidance from the NCAA; financial considerations; and misunderstanding of the relationships of race and ancestry to SCT risk. Athletic staff found the policy valuable, but felt it needs clarity and standardization.

Keywords: Genetic counseling; Genetic screening; Policy implementation; Race; Sickle cell trait; Sports medicine.

MeSH terms

  • Athletes / psychology
  • Athletes / statistics & numerical data*
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data*
  • North Carolina
  • Sickle Cell Trait / diagnosis*
  • Sickle Cell Trait / prevention & control
  • Sports Medicine / organization & administration
  • Students / statistics & numerical data
  • United States
  • Universities
  • Young Adult