Exertional Sickling occurs in athletes carrying the sickle cell trait. When the red blood cells change shape or “sickle” it causes a buildup of red blood cells in small blood vessels leading to decreased blood flow. This drop in blood flow leads to a breakdown of muscle tissue and cell death known as fulminant rhabdomyolysis.
Signs and Symptoms of Exertional Sickling:
- Cramping Muscle Weakness > Muscle Pain
- Slumps to Ground
- Muscles Look and Feel Normal
- Rapid Breathing
- Core (Rectal) Temperature <102oF
What to do in the event of this emergency?
- Check and monitor vitals.
- Monitor for shock, responsiveness, tachycardia (fast heart rate) that begins to evolve into bradycardia (slow heart rate).
- If available, give supplemental oxygen at 15 L/min by non-breather mask.
- Cool athlete, if necessary.
- Failing immediate improvement, call 911 and attach an AED. Be ready to start CPR, if needed.
- Transport athlete.