NCAA member conferences are set to vote sometime this week in Indianapolis on mandatory testing for the sickle cell trait in all Division I athletes. In the last decade, 21 football players have fallen ill during training and later died, and eight of those athletes were found to have sickle cell traits. The research so far is inconclusive. What is known is that 1 in 12 Black people in the U.S. carries the trait, which, when agitated by high altitudes and physical activity, is thought to contribute to illness and even death. Less than 1 percent of white people carry the trait. The request for testing came out of a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the parents of Dale Lloyd II, a Rice University football player who collapsed and died after complications from sickle cell in 2006. Critics fear that the testing will exclude black athletes from being able to play Division I collegiate sports. This is yet another example of people focused on the wrong thing. You would think that saving lives would be the most important piece of this discussion, not whether someone can play sports at the collegiate level. If someone wants to knowingly risk his or her life after learning of his or her status, then so be it. Athletes should know and so should the coaches, especially if it can save a life. I know I'm tired of reading about young black male athletes collapsing and dying under conditions that are seemingly preventable.
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