Sickle Cell Trait and Fatal Rhabdomyolysis in Football Training: A Case Study

Mary L. Anzalone; Valerie S. Green; Maximillian Buja; Luis A. Sanchez; Rajesh I. Harrykissoon; E. Randy Eichner


Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010;42(1):3-7. 

In This Article


SCT can pose a grave risk for some athletes. At least 15 college football players with SCT-along with other athletes-have suffered a sickling-associated fatal exertional collapse as a result of fulminant rhabdomyolysis that occurs without evidence of EHI. To illustrate the typical syndrome, we detail the fatal collapse of a college football player in training. The clinical course and the pathological correlation strongly suggest that exertional sickling is the cause of this collapse syndrome. In athletes with SCT, it appears that sickling can begin within 2-3 min of maximal sprinting-or any other all-out, sustained exertion-and can reach grave levels very soon thereafter if the athlete struggles on or is urged on by coaches despite warning signs. Heat, dehydration, altitude, and asthma can increase the risk for and worsen exertional sickling. Collapse with sickling is a medical emergency, and fast action can save lives. In our opinion, screening and simple precautions can prevent this unique syndrome and enable SCT athletes to thrive in their sports.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.