World Sickle Cell Awareness Day is observed on June 19th. Sickle Cell Anemia(SCA) is an inherited disorder that causes red blood cells(RBC) to conform to a "sickle-like" shape. The sickling of the RBCs reduces the amount of oxygen that the affected red blood cells can carry and causes the cells to clump or block blood vessels. The disorder can be extremely painful.
Former Pittsburgh Steeler, Ryan Clark, has sickle cell trait. In 2007, Clark was playing football against the Denver Broncos. Denver, nicknamed the "Mile-High City", is located at a higher altitude with a lower oxygen concentration. While playing, he experienced severe pain and was subsequently hospitalized. Clark ultimately lost his spleen and gallbladder.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "one in 365 black Americans have the disorder, and approximately one in 13 blacks are carriers of the sickle cell trait". The World Health Organization (WHO), reports that SCA is one of the foremost causes of premature death amongst children under the age of five in many African countries.