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University of Pittsburgh student-athlete perceptions and ethical evaluation of the NCAA sickle cell trait screening program

Ferrari, Rosalie (2014) University of Pittsburgh student-athlete perceptions and ethical evaluation of the NCAA sickle cell trait screening program. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Background: Individuals with sickle cell trait (SCT) typically do not suffer any health complications; however, adverse effects associated with SCT can occur, especially under extremely physical conditions. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) mandates SCT testing for all incoming freshmen or transfer students-athletes. The NCAA SCT screening program has been controversial; organizations, such as the American Society of Hematology (ASH), instead recommend implementing universal interventions (e.g. monitored work-rest cycles) to protect all student-athletes, regardless of SCT status, from exercise-related injuries. Concerns about the program stems from its mandatory nature and how the program can impact student-athletes, with potential harm through stigmatization and discrimination.

Screening programs can often be effective and important public health interventions; however, when any program is mandatory in nature, their appropriateness should be investigated. Despite the direct impact of the program on them, student-athletes’ perceptions of the program have not been thoroughly assessed. The purpose of this study was to elicit student-athletes’ thoughts and feelings toward the NCAA program to learn about their perceptions and to evaluate the ethical concerns about the program.

Methods: Qualitative interviews were conducted with freshmen or transfer student-athletes at the University of Pittsburgh. The interviews were transcribed and coded using qualitative thematic analysis and analyzed.

Results: Sixteen student-athletes were interviewed. Participants were supportive of the NCAA policy, due to their perception of SCT as a significant health concern. Furthermore, participants were in favor of genetic counseling which provided understanding of screening rationale. Participants did not readily raise concerns the ASH had identified, such as stigmatization or discrimination; moreover, student-athletes were hesitant to endorse implementation of universal interventions, worrying such measures may hinder athletic performance.

Conclusion: This study reflects the attitudes of a small number of student-athletes at the University of Pittsburgh. Future studies are needed in order to evaluate the perceptions of student-athletes at other institutions. Despite the lack of student-athletes expressing ethical concerns, a non-mandatory "opt-in" screening program that includes genetic counseling, combined with the implementation of universal interventions, could achieve the health-promoting goals of the NCAA with regard to SCT and would be more ethically sound.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Ferrari, Rosalierof21@pitt.eduROF21
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Thesis AdvisorParker, Lisa S.lisap@pitt.eduLISAP
Committee MemberGrubs, Robin rgrubs@pitt.eduRGRUBS
Committee MemberKrishnamurti,
Committee MemberMartinson, Jeremyjmartins@pitt.eduJMARTINS
Date: 29 September 2014
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 13 June 2014
Approval Date: 29 September 2014
Submission Date: 17 July 2014
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 91
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Public Health > Genetic Counseling
Degree: MS - Master of Science
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Genetic counseling, NCAA, mandatory screening, ethics
Date Deposited: 29 Sep 2014 20:40
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:22


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