Living With Sickle Cell in a World of Athletics

There is one thing that I know to be true of everyone that lives with Sickle Cell Anemia, and that is that everyone’s story is different. What I’m about to share with you today happens to be mine. Maybe you can relate to it, or maybe not. What I hope that this does for you is cause you to think and even discuss with others about the nature of everyday things that some often take for granted.



As a child growing up my parents were very protective of me. This was neither good or bad. It was just how they dealt with raising a child that was living with Sickle Cell. My father, himself also a Sickle Cell warrior battled the fight he was born to fight. As someone who was not very athletic, he lived a life where he chose to be a part of team sports by taking photographs and being a scorekeeper. Those were things that kept him close to the action. He loved to watch football, basketball, and baseball. He especially loved college football.

In my own personal life, I’ve never been athletic per se. I’ve always loved the idea of sports, but I usually found myself being winded by activities like team sports. So I chose to be a spectator. I’m probably more inclined to bowling or playing billiards than say playing a quick 3 on 3 hoops game. I’m more likely to swim a couple laps in the pool than I am to take on a team on the gridiron in full contact football.

I can recall one day when I was young, probably about six or seven and my friends talked me into playing a game of what was supposed to be tag football. Normally, I’d just sit on my steps and watch the other kids playing across the street. However, this day they convinced me to play with them, promising my mother that they’d be careful to watch out for me. In the excitement of the moment of play, one of the guys forgot that we were only supposed to be tagging one another and I found myself on the receiving end of a full tackle from behind.

That hit from behind not only shocked me, it shook me and sent me into a Sickle crisis. I pretty much swore off any thoughts of competitive sports early on and only occasionally played baseball or softball during church picnics or whatever sports was required during physical education classes in school.

While I may choose to minimize my athleticism to low impact activities, I still wholeheartedly agree in staying fit, which is why I go to the gym and workout on weight machines, do cardio and other things to maintain my physical fitness. I also realize that there are others like me who choose to go all out and desire to test the boundaries of what their body can handle.

For some, that can be a challenge. It’s even a challenge for those who have Sickle Cell Trait. With many competitive sports associations like the NCAA questioning whether student athletes that have Sickle Trait need to come forth with their status, they have admitted that they see no reason to restrict participation of those who have it. The NCAA has even been approved to test players for the trait against some doctors who have objected.

It’s really hard for some people to know what’s appropriate and what’s not when there is no agreement between the sports community and the medical community. One recent report revealed an increased risk of fatality for people with Sickle Cell Trait that exercise with high intensity.

Whether you have the Sickle Cell Trait or Sickle Cell Disease, the decision as to how athletic you choose to be is yours. You must know your limits and what risks you are willing to take, even as any person must when it comes down to gaging what you’re able to tolerate. You know you better than anyone else. Your body has to serve you well in as much as you are meant to serve others with all of your gifts, talents, and skills. Know your strengths and weaknesses, and live your best life in a world of athletics, as God has enabled you.


QUESTION: How have you chosen to live with Sickle Cell in this world of Athletics?



  1. […] Living With Sickle Cell in a World of Athletics ( […]

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