A recent blog post about testing for sickle-cell trait arrived at a good conclusion, although it may have left a misimpression about how Divisions II and III have addressed the issue to date.
Writing on The Business of College Sports blog (one of the most informative and insightful blogs around), Alicia Jessop of RulingSports.com encouraged Divisions II and III members to approve mandatory testing for sickle-cell trait at the NCAA Convention in January.
Clearly, there’s no problem with that conclusion. My only concern is that the piece was light on background about how the topic has evolved in Divisions II and III − and may have left casual readers with the mistaken belief that testing for sickle-cell trait had not been considered at those levels until now, or that Divisions II and III are necessarily resistant to such legislation.
In fact, Division II developed proposed legislation last year that is similar to the proposal that will be considered in January. The proposal crafted in 2010 would have required Division II institutions to test for sickle-cell trait without any provision for student-athletes to decline the test. Division II, however, held up on a vote to give the overall Association a chance to address the issue more holistically.
In the intervening time, Division I added a provision to its own legislation that requires student-athletes to sign a waiver releasing the institution from liability if they decline to be tested.
As for Division III, the dynamics were a bit different. Members there wanted to approach the topic from a timely, data-driven perspective. With that in mind, those members asked the NCAA’s Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports to gather information on several points:
- Cost and availability of the test
- The incidence of sickle-cell related illness in Division III
- Whether the significant differences in preseason conditioning standards in Division III obviate the need for mandatory Division III testing
The competitive-safeguards committee surveyed the overall membership to determine the state of affairs regarding testing, counseling, prevalence of the trait and safety practices, among other things.
The survey results and subsequent competitive-safeguards committee recommendation (that testing for sickle-cell trait should be consistent across divisions) bring us back to Divisions II and III Management Council discussions that will occur today and tomorrow.
One other observation: In 2007, all three divisions adopted legislation requiring student-athletes who are beginning their initial season of eligibility to undergo a medical examination before participation in any practice, competition or out-of-season conditioning activities.
By the way, the Orlando Sentinel carried an extensive package on sickle-cell trait in its Sunday and Monday issues: