Geno Atkins has been arguably the best player on the Bengals' defense this year. With 10-sacks on the season, Atkins is the first player in Bengals franchise history with multiple 10+ sack seasons (12.5 sacks, 2012).
With the Bengals traveling to Denver this weekend there have been questions surfacing regarding whether Atkins will play or play as much as he typically does.
Atkins has the Sickle Cell Trait which has caused issues for players who possess while playing in Denver, where the altitude is significantly higher than most of the rest of the country. In 2011 Atkins played in Denver and detailed how it made him feel. "That was the first time I really felt like, just fatigued, tired," Atkins said. "I couldn't really focus that much. I couldn't really catch my breath as when we play in Cincinnati."
Atkins did have to rotate in and out of the lineup during that game and received oxygen on the sidelines to help him breathe and restore his energy.
According to the CDC, some people with SCT have been shown to be more likely than those without SCT to experience heat stroke and muscle breakdown when doing intense exercise, such as competitive sports or military training under unfavorable temperatures (very high or low) or conditions. Studies have shown that the chance of this problem can be reduced by avoiding dehydration and getting too hot during training. Increased pressure in the atmosphere, low oxygen levels in the air, dehydration and high altitudes can all lead to complications when you possess the trait.
According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Atkins will play in Denver on Monday Night Football. Atkins spoke with head coach Marvin Lewis this week about the last time the team played in Denver. "I asked Geno, you remember much?" Lewis said via the Enquirer. "He said, ‘Yeah, you all left me out there 15 plays in a row.' And that was his second time ever starting. It's something we are conscious of. We will be conscious of him with it on Monday."
Lewis added that due to the defensive line rotation it shouldn't be "that big of a deal".
"Basically the way he rotates anyway it's not that big of a deal particularly at that position," Lewis said. "He's aware, we're aware."