On the first day of Buffalo Bills training camp this past Sunday, wide receiver Marquise Goodwin left practice early for an undisclosed reason. After several fans questioned him on Twitter, he revealed he has sickle cell and asthma in a now-deleted tweet.
"No I was not hurt the first day of camp. Sickle Cell and athsma beat me today! For those who assumed... ?" wrote Goodwin.
SB Nation medical expert Dr. Ali Mohamadi chimes in with some insight into what Goodwin is going through in the July heat, but also with the rest of his career as he copes with the illness.
"Sickle cell anemia is an inherited blood disorder where a patient's red blood cells are shaped differently than usual - like a sickle rather than a disc - and this makes it difficult for them to pass through small blood vessels," Dr. Mohamadi told Buffalo Rumblings via email. "There are certain situations that make it more likely for the sickle cells to clog these blood vessels - such as dehydration and altitude - and this clogging can keep the body from getting adequate blood and oxygen. The result is what's known as a 'pain crisis': patients can get episodes of pain that typically occur in the arms, legs, chest, and abdomen, with a severity that can range from mild to debilitating."
Beyond Goodwin's ailments, several Bills have dealt with heat-related illnesses already in training camp. Brandon Spikes had to be moved to a cooling tent earlier this week, while Evan Rodriguez and Chris Gragg spent time in the hospital with heat cramps - and those are just the public occurrences we know about.
"Training camp is a setup for dehydration if athletes don't hydrate properly, and so it stands to reason this is a situation where someone with sickle cell anemia is at risk for a pain crisis," wrote Mohamadi. "The treatment is typically rehydration and pain control with medications. Once the pain has subsided, as long as Goodwin keeps himself hydrated, he should be fine to practice and play, but he does need to make sure he gets plenty of fluids."
This genetic disorder won't go away. While it can be managed, attention is key to preventing serious injury for Goodwin.
"People with sickle cell anemia are at a higher risk for long-term damage to organs including the lungs, eyes, kidneys, and liver; bone and joint problems; infections; and stroke, among other items," said Mohamadi. "It's a serious disease, and patients need to be vigilant about seeing their doctor regularly and seeking immediate care when they have any symptoms. It's unlikely these long-term issues will affect Goodwin during his playing career - he can have a long and successful one - but it's something he'll have to stay on top of for the rest of his life."
One problem that could affect Goodwin during his playing career is this season's trip to Denver. Dr. Mohamadi recalled an isolated incident in that stadium with one player that can be avoided with proper prevention.
"The issue of altitude and its effect on patients with sickle cell came to the forefront when then-Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark, who has a relatively mild variant known as sickle cell trait, had to have his spleen removed in 2007 after a game in Denver and was lost for the season. Clark had a pain crisis that resulted in loss of oxygen to and tissue death in the spleen. Interestingly, though, a number of high-profile football players, including Santonio Holmes and Geno Atkins, also have sickle cell trait and have played in Denver without incident. The key is hydration, recognizing symptoms early, and if a pain crisis does occur, taking precaution by sitting it out just like Goodwin did in practice the other day."