Helmet, Jersey, Shoulder Pads…Gene Test?

Posted by Doug Pet on September 23rd, 2010

This week, The Washington Post reported on the National Collegiate Athletic Association's new requirement that all Division I athletes be tested for the gene for sickle-cell anemia. The article outlines a number of concerns about the policy, including possible discrimination against the disproportionate number of blacks who are carriers, insufficient science to back up and inform large-scale screening, and that the rule may sidestep the underlying issue that college training regimens in general have reached dangerous levels of intensity.

Find the article here.

Others have looked critically at the issue of mandatory genetic screening for athletes and workers in the past. In Backdoor to Eugenics (Routledge 2003), sociologist Troy Duster looked at the racial politics of misguided military policies of the 1970's, which mandated harsh exclusions for sickle-cell carriers. Both in his book and in recent conversation with Biopolitical Times, Duster finds that addressing sickle-cell carrier status has not been guided by health interests based on credible scientific research, but rather by liability damage control.

For now, we must hope that a rush to limit liability does not compromise the robust discussions needed to inform coaches and trainers about how to use this genetic information ethically and responsibly to protect the health of their athletes.

Previously on Biopoltical Times

Posted in Doug Pet's Blog Posts, Race, Sequencing & Genomics, US Federal


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