Sickle cell trait, exertion-related death and confounded estimates

Sickle cell trait (SCT) has historically been thought of as a benign condition. However, there has been increasing recognition that, in athletes, SCT is associated with an elevated risk for exertion-related death (ERD).1 With the hope to minimise future tragedies, Harmon et al 2sought to quantify the association of SCT and ERD. They looked at data compiled on nearly two million collegiate 'athlete-years' between 2004 and 2008. Since the risk associated with SCT was highest among Division 1 (D1) football players, the authors elected to focus on that group. Their highlighted conclusions, 'Sickle cell trait associated with a RR of death of 37 times...', are now being referenced in discussions regarding SCT testing.3 ,4 Others may have concerns about generalising results from D1 athletes to all athletes or lack of discussion about the small number of deaths (from a statistical standpoint) and thus uncertainty surrounding the results. Our concern is that the conclusions based on combining data from all race/ethnicities are not meaningful because of confounding bias secondary to race/ethnicity.

Among the D1 footballers, the researchers found 1 ERD in every 827 athlete-years in those who had SCT. Although the issue of race/ethnicity is an uncomfortable topic, given ...
Autor / Fonte:Steven D Stovitz, Ian Shrier Br J Sports Med 2014;48:285-286 Published Online First: 13 December 2012 doi:10.1136/bjsports-2012-091619