Topic_1_Thomas_Zarda_2010 - In N.C.A.A., Question of Bias...

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Reprints This copy is for your personal, noncommercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers here or use the "Reprints" tool that appears next to any article. Visit for samples and additional information. Order a reprint of this article now. April 11, 2010 By KATIE THOMAS and BRETT ZARDA Twenty-one college football players have collapsed and died as a result of training over the past decade. At least eight were carriers of the sickle-cell trait, a genetic disorder that can unpredictably turn deadly during rigorous exercise. A blood test to screen for the trait costs about $5, and many university team doctors and athletic trainers support compulsory testing, arguing that it could save lives. Yet a proposal to make such testing mandatory for all N.C.A.A. Division I athletes is not a sure bet to pass when it comes up for a vote by member conferences as early as Monday in Indianapolis. The measure is questioned by the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America , which argues that athletes should know their own status but raises concerns that those with the trait could be denied the chance to compete. Leading sickle-cell researchers have also resisted calls for mandatory testing, saying that changing training practices for everyone would minimize the risks to athletes with the trait. “There’s not any data that shows that screening can save lives,” said Dr. William Roberts, who co-edited a set of recommendations by six medical organizations on preseason physicals. “A lot of the kids who have died, they’ve known they have sickle-cell trait and they still run them to death. It should just be a change in the training program to protect everyone and not just the kids with sickle.” A vote on the issue in January failed to gain a necessary two-thirds majority, with some of the most influential football conferences — including the Pacific-10 and the Big East — opposing it. Concerns include the cost of testing athletes less likely to carry the trait and those competing in lower-intensity sports, as well as whether the test would lead the N.C.A.A. to require other, more-costly tests for other characteristics. One proposed amendment would allow athletes to opt out of testing, an idea that some opponents said they supported. People with sickle-cell trait have one abnormal hemoglobin gene and typically lead normal lives —
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Topic_1_Thomas_Zarda_2010 - In N.C.A.A., Question of Bias...

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