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    Protocol decided for sickle cell testing

    Apr 13, 2010 3:42:58 PM

    By Michelle Brutlag Hosick
    The NCAA News


    The Division I Legislative Council decided that all incoming Division I student-athletes must be tested for sickle cell trait, show proof of a prior test or sign a waiver releasing an institution from liability if they decline to be tested. The new rule will be in effect for the 2010-11 academic year. The legislation applies to student -athletes who are beginning their initial season of eligibility and students who are trying out for the team.

    The original legislation requiring all incoming student-athletes to be tested before participating in athletically related activities was sponsored by Conference USA as part of a settlement between Rice and the parents of a football student-athlete whose death was tied to sickle cell trait. A subsequent version allowed institutions to accept documented evidence of a prior test in place of completing the testing themselves. The Ivy League then sponsored an amendment allowing student-athletes to decline the test.

    Legislative Council chair Joe D'Antonio said the Council's action provides the greatest flexibility both for member institutions and student-athletes.

    Allowing student-athletes to decline the test addresses concerns that student-athletes who test positive for the trait might be denied opportunities. The National Athletic Trainers' Association encourages institutions to screen incoming student-athletes. The NATA advocates a slow buildup of conditioning activities and frequent rest-and-recovery periods for all student-athletes because this approach can reduce adverse effects caused by sickle cell trait and is also a healthier approach overall.

    Sickle cell trait can change the shape of red blood cells during intense or extensive exertion, causing a blockage in blood vessels and rapid breakdown of muscles, including the heart. Initial tests for the trait are inexpensive at about $5 a test, though follow-up testing can be more expensive.

    The Council also addressed several other pieces of legislation remaining in the 2009-10 cycle. The Council:

    The Legislative Council's actions are not considered final until they pass review by the Division I Board of Directors. The Board meets April 29.

    In other business, the Council upheld the Legislative Review and Interpretations Committee's interpretation that the effective date of Proposal No. 2009-31 – which requires institutions that publicly designate a head-coach-in-waiting to hold those coaches to the same recruiting restrictions as head coaches – does apply to institutions that had publicly designated head-coaches-in-waiting before the introduction of the proposal. Texas and Maryland, which have both publicly designated head-coaches-in-waiting, appealed the LRIC decision to the Council.