Sickle cell may affect NFL playoffs

Even with the NFL playoffs on the line, Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin is pulling the team’s leading safety, Ryan Clark, from Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos. Clark has sickle cell trait, which means while he does not have sickle cell disease, he is susceptible to some of the complications associated with the disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, athletes with sickle cell trait may be at a higher risk for “heat stroke and muscle breakdown when doing intense exercise” and that conditions such as low oxygen levels and high altitudes “could be harmful for people with [sickle cell trait].” Clark last played at the Bronco’s stadium that sits a mile above sea level in 2007, after which doctors had to remove his spleen and gallbladder, he lost 30 pounds, and he was out for the rest of the season.

Ariel Kelly


In the United States, it is estimated that 90,000 to 100,000 people, most commonly African Americans, are affected by sickle cell disease. Like Ryan Clark, the Kelly family has felt the effects of sickle cell. Both parents and son Pierre have sickle cell trait, while daughter Ariel and son Kalin have sickle cell disease. When Ariel’s doctors determined that a bone marrow transplant was the best course of treatment for her, they tested members of the family and discovered that Pierre was a match. Unfortunately, Pierre is not a match for Kalin.

Click here to learn more about the Kelly family.


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About The Bone Marrow Foundation

Founded in 1992, The Bone Marrow Foundation is dedicated to improving the quality of life for bone marrow, stem cell, and cord blood transplant patients and their families by providing vital financial assistance, emotional support, and comprehensive educational programs. The Foundation is the only organization of its kind that does not limit assistance to a specific disease, type of transplant or age range.

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