In sickness and in health

By Bonitta Best
Updated: July 16, 2009

DURHAM – Dale Lloyd II’s death may save others.

Lloyd collapsed three years ago during a conditioning workout session at Rice. He died the next day. Later, it was discovered that Lloyd, a 19-year-old freshman, had the sickle cell trait which was linked to his death.

At that time, Rice did not test athletes for the trait.

But as part of a lawsuit settlement by Lloyd’s parents, the NCAA is now recommending that all member institutions test athletes for the sickle cell trait.

Because the NCAA is a voluntary association, it cannot force colleges and universities to apply, but it can “strongly” suggest it. To decline might be seen as uncaring.

“We currently screen for sickle cell by having our student-athletes complete questionnaires asking them if they carry the trait or if it is in their family history,” N.C. Central head trainer Sean Thomas said. “We are looking into conducting actual tests for sickle cell in the future.”

Like NCCU, most schools are in the “ask-do-tell” stage of testing. The cost to perform actual tests is still being debated.

Sickle cell is a disease that affects a disproportionate number of African-Americans. It is a lifelong disease that can cause severe pain, anemia, organ damage, lung problems and strokes.

People with the trait can lead normal lives without complications, however if two people with the trait marry, they almost assuredly will have a child with the disease.

Lloyd participated in football, one of the most violent sports there is. Athletes with the sickle cell trait are at a greater risk in contact sports.

“Football and soccer are the two most violent sports, especially in the South,” Texas Southern Athletics Director Charles McClelland said. “It’s primarily the fall sports [football, basketball] that we see the most problems.”

A lot of the issues that some of the student-athletes have to deal with is the heat. Those with the trait, their activity is definitely reduced when it comes to strength and conditioning, and direct heat and sunlight.”

“Then, there are modifications and accommodations.”

As part of the settlement with the Lloyd family, the NCAA agreed to:

• Amend its Sports Medicine Handbook to recommend that all athletic departments confirm the trait in its student-athletes

• Donate $50,000 to the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America in Lloyd’s name

• Contribute $10,000 to the Dale Lloyd II Scholarship Fund

• Prepare an educational video about carrying the sickle cell trait for member schools

• Inform the media and the public about the disease.