An athlete with sickle cell trait (hemoglobin AS) may suffer a number of complications if stressed during intense exercise. Any athlete with a racial or family risk for sickle cell anemia should be screened prior to sport participation.


NOTE: A person with sickle cell anemia (hemoglobin SS) should consult with a physician before starting any exercise or sport program.


Risk factors that may precipitate a red cell sickling:

(1) high environmental temperatures or heat

(2) high altitude

(3) asthma, cold or other respiratory disorder

(4) dehydration

(5) strenuous exercise to the point of exhaustion


Early findings:

(1) excessive fatigue

(2) dyspnea or difficulty breathing

(3) muscle pain in back or legs

(4) weakness


Later findings:

(1) hematuria (possibly indicating papillary necrosis)

(2) hyposthenuria (difficulty concentrating the urine)


Serious complications:

(1) rhabdomyolysis

(2) sudden collapse

(3) splenic infarcts

(4) renal failure, DIC, or other organ failure

(5) sudden death


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