Sickle Cell Society
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Just the Facts // Sickle Cell Trait Professional Athlete - Ryan Clark NFL Football Player does not play in Denver due to the high altitude

NBC Sports SOURCE: profootballtalk.nbcsports.c...

Hines Ward: Ryan Clark shouldn't play in Denver

Posted by Mike Florio on November 3, 2009, 12:54 PM EDT

Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark has the sickle-cell trait, and the last time he played at the altitude of Denver, it almost cost him his life. Clark got so sick that he lost 30 pounds, had to have his spleen and gall bladder removed, and couldn’t play for the rest of the season.

SBN Nation Source: sbnation.com/nfl/2014/12/10...

"Finally one Thursday after a month of doctors failing to figure out what was wrong, Clark prayed about it and called another doctor who sent him to take a different test. Two hours after the test, the doctor called Yonka with instructions to get Clark to the hospital immediately.

Clark had a splenic infarction. The high altitude had complicated his sickle cell trait, preventing oxygen from getting to his organs, causing tissue death in his spleen.

"The doctor said that if I hadn't called him, I wouldn't have made it through the weekend," said Clark"

ESPN Source: espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/833...

Sickle cell trait is a genetic abnormality which can affect red blood cells. Clark was playing in Denver in October 2007 when he developed significant pain in his left side. He became gravely ill and ultimately lost his spleen and gall bladder, along with the remainder of that football season, as a result.

While Clark was eventually able to regain his health and return to football, the possibility of another episode in high altitude was not something the Steelers wanted to risk.

Clark will travel with the team and be on the sideline Sunday night. He will not dress for the game.

Scientific American: scientificamerican.com/arti...

Ryan Clarke, a safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers, nearly died during a sickle-cell trait episode in Denver in 2007, however. He still plays but sits out when his team goes back to the mile-high city, and hasn’t had an incident since.

Like many genetic tests the question of sickle-cell trait boils down to whether knowing a person’s health status will actually help save them. Do doctors and coaches know enough about the risks of sickle-cell trait to make testing an effective prevention approach? Do scientists know enough about the pathology of sickle cell to be able to recommend a prevention strategy? Yale University epidemiologist Yaw Amoateng-Adjepong thinks so. “We may not know the exact sequence of events, we may not be able to predict things with fineness—but frankly, in medicine, we've never had absolute certainty for most of the things that we do, but we go ahead and act,” he says. So far, three years into the NCAA testing program no one has died from a sickle-cell trait episode.