The Los Angeles Times' Booster Shots blog examines the National Collegiate Athletic Association's plan to "screen close to 167,000 college athletes for 'sickle cell trait,'" in light of a warning from two experts at the National Human Genome Research Institute that the program is "full of potential pitfalls." According to the LA Times, the NCAA program "aims to identify carriers of a single sickle-cell gene," as these individuals "have unusual vulnerabilities, including some that are distinctly relevant to athletics: they are more prone than those without the sickle-cell gene to develop a potentially deadly muscle-wasting condition called rhabdomyolisis after intense physical exertion, as well blockages in blood vessels carrying oxygen to the spleen." Vence Bonham, associate investigator in the social and behavioral research branch, and Lawrence Brody, chief of the genome technology branch at NHGRI, along with pediatrician George Dover at Johns Hopkins Children's Center, say that "the NCAA has failed to put in place measures that protect athletes identified as carriers from stigma or discrimination within their programs, or that provide them counseling on what their status means (and does not mean) and how they might protect themselves from the risks that come with it," the LA Times reports. In commentary published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week, Bonham, Brody, and Dover warn that the sickle-cell testing "may also open the door to additional testing."
A Slippery Slope?
Sep 10, 2010