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A Policy Impact Analysis of the Mandatory NCAA Sickle Cell Trait Screening Program


  • The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of the University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin, or Johns Hopkins University.

Address correspondence to Beth A. Tarini, M.D., M.S., Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit, Division of General Pediatrics, University of Michigan, 300 N. Ingalls Street, Room 6C11, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-5446; e-mail:



To estimate the impact of the mandatory National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) sickle cell trait (SCT) screening policy on the identification of sickle cell carriers and prevention of sudden death.

Data Source

We used NCAA reports, population-based SCT prevalence estimates, and published risks for exercise-related sudden death attributable to SCT.

Study Design

We estimated the number of sickle cell carriers identified and the number of potentially preventable sudden deaths with mandatory SCT screening of NCAA Division I athletes. We calculated the number of student-athletes with SCT using a conditional probability based upon SCT prevalence data and self-identified race/ethnicity status. We estimated sudden deaths over 10 years based on published attributable risk of exercise-related sudden death due to SCT.

Principal Findings

We estimate that over 2,000 NCAA Division I student-athletes with SCT will be identified under this screening policy and that, without intervention, about seven NCAA Division I student-athletes would die suddenly as a complication of SCT over a 10-year period.


Universal sickle cell screening of NCAA Division I student-athletes will identify a substantial number of sickle cell carriers. A successful intervention could prevent about seven deaths over a decade.