Blood clots can be a dangerous condition for anyone, especially athletes. Serena Williams suffered severe health issues related to a Pulmonary Embolism after giving birth to her daughter. Like Williams, many athletes are increasingly focused on the threats of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and Pulmonary Embolism (PE). Both of these conditions can be painful and disruptive to an athlete’s routine, which is why there’s an increasing concern around developing blood clots. Athletes tend to be at a higher risk because blood clots are often treated as acute conditions, such as strained muscles, and therefore are often overlooked.
Symptoms of a Blood Clot
Even though only a small amount of people experience serious symptoms from blood clots, there are notable characteristics that should not be overlooked. Symptoms of DVT in the limb could include any or all of the following:
- Warmth in one spot
- Discoloration on arms or legs
- Limb swelling
- Pain or soreness that doesn’t improve
If symptoms of a DVT are ignored, the individual could increase his or her risk of a portion of the clot breaking off and traveling to the lungs, causing a life-threatening PE. The symptoms of pulmonary embolism include rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, pain in the chest, sudden cough, dizziness and fainting.
A Demographic Often Overlooked
Sometimes people think that only the elderly or severely ill are at risk of DVT and PE. Unfortunately, athletes like Williams can also suffer from these severe blood clots due to their extremely active lifestyles. When an athlete exhibits symptoms of a blood clot, particularly pain in the arms or legs, it is sometimes treated as acute conditions such as a muscle strain, Charley Horse, cramps, shin splints or muscle tear. PE symptoms can be confused with costochondritis, bronchitis or a pulled pectoral muscle. If the symptoms match those of a blood clot, the athlete should receive immediate care due to the severity of certain blood clots.
Blood Clot Causes
Depending on family genetics, an individual is more likely to get blood clots if this condition runs in their family. Any time blood flow is slowed significantly for an extended period; it increases the risk of clotting. For example, bed rest of any kind, including after surgery or injury, can increase the possibility of a clot. Lifestyle factors such as obesity, pregnancy or smoking as well as certain medications such as hormonal birth control can also increase the risk. An athlete is at risk of getting blood clots due to the high possibility of:
- Dehydration or nutrition deficiencies
- Increased risk of injury or surgery
- Localized trauma
- Prolonged travel time to games
- Prevention of Blood Clots
To avoid the risk of blood clots, athletes could consider using compression stockings/socks and making sure the blood in their legs is frequently circulating during extended rest periods. Individuals should maintain a healthy weight and elevate legs when possible while sitting. During times of high-intensity workouts or training, it’s important to stay hydrated and keep track of nutrition. Although eliminating the risk of blood clots is difficult, these preventive measures can help lower clotting chances. Additionally, athletes could meet with a vein specialist who can review individual vein health, circulation and anatomy.
Diagnosis and Treatment in Rockford, IL
Diagnosis of a DVT or PE typically involves a physical evaluation and an ultrasound or Computed Tomography scan and vascular labs. It’s important to seek a prompt diagnosis when it comes to dangerous blood clots. Depending on continued risk factors, medication might be administered temporarily or long-term to break up the clot or thin the blood.
The idea of Deep Vein Thrombosis or Pulmonary Embolism is frightening for anyone. Through prevention and timely diagnosis, treatment is possible. For a full evaluation of vein health and anatomy, contact Northern Illinois Vein Clinic and set up an initial consultation.