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Minnesota heart database sheds light on risk of sickle cell trait in young athletes

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Kevin Harris, M.D.

[Pioneer Press, April 04, 2011] When highly trained young athletes die suddenly during physical activity, the usual cause is a heart condition. But researchers in Minneapolis have concluded that at least some of those deaths might be explained by the trait for sickle cell disease.

The finding, presented Sunday at a scientific meeting in New Orleans, is in line with previous reports suggesting that sudden deaths in young athletes are more common among carriers of the sickle cell trait, which is generally benign.

Local researchers surveyed death reports over three decades from a unique database at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation and found 22 cases in which sickle cell trait was considered the primary cause of death or a contributing factor. Although that's only about 1 percent of the total deaths, the cluster is the largest yet reported describing sickle cell trait as a cause of sudden death in athletes, said Dr. Kevin Harris, a researcher and cardiologist at the Minneapolis Heart Institute at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.

Read the entire story at twincities.com.

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