Title

Social and Behavioral Implications of National Collegiate Athletic Association Sickle Cell Trait Screening: the Athletes' Perspective

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Fall 2015

Publication Title

Journal of the Georgia Public Health Association

Abstract

Background: In August 2010, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) implemented a policy mandating sickle cell trait (SCT) testing for all Division I collegiate athletes. Subsequently, all Division II-III athletes were also compelled to undergo SCT testing. This decision has met with controversy among healthcare providers, researchers, and sickle cell advocates. However, there is little information concerning the athletes’ perspective of this policy. The purpose of this paper is to report the findings of a qualitative study that explored college athletes’ perceptions of sickle cell trait SCT, NCAA policies on SCT testing, and potential implications of SCT screening.

Methods: The participants were eighteen male and female athletes (ages 18-24), members of NCAA-governed teams who were on the study campus from April-August 2010. Athletes participated in focus groups that gathered their perceptions of the SCT, the NCAA SCT policy, and social and behavioral implications of a SCT diagnosis.

Results: Athletes lacked knowledge of the SCT and the implications of a positive screening test result, desired health education about SCT, were conflicted about sharing health information, and feared loss of playing time if found to carry the SCT.

Conclusions: The study revealed athletes’ perceptions of the SCT and mandated NCAA SCT testing that should be addressed by college health professionals.