Endurance Athletes and DVT’s (blood clots)

Two of my running friends have developed DVT’s in the past six months. Two healthy runners in their early 40’s. This surprised me, as I always think of DVT’s (blood clots) as something that happens to an older, more sedentary, less healthy population.
As I did some research, some very interesting information has come to light. If you are an endurance athlete, please read on. DVT’s do not just happen to folks in hospital beds, if you are an endurance athlete, you need to be aware of this condition and a few facts!!

What it is: DVT- deep vein thrombosis. Layman’s term: blood clot. Why this is bad: this blood clot can break off from where it’s formed, travel through your bloodstream, block oxygen and blood to your brain, and KILL YOU. Or the blood clot can stay in your leg (or arm) and cause swelling, pain, even tissue necrosis in the area if left alone long enough.

SO why is this happening to an otherwise fit athlete? Atheletes tend to have a lower resting heart rate. This results in blood flowing slower through the body.
Dehydration-this plays a factor in your blood viscosity. More dehyrdation leads to thicker blood.
Trauma? Falls, bruises? Nah, this never happens in an ultra. (Non runners would call this “trauma”) Ultra runners? Well, we took a face plant eight hours ago. No big deal, right? I got a little banged up. Due to this trauma, there may be a clot forming at the spot in the cell wal. This is your body functioning normally.

After the race is over, we get into our car, or onto an airplane, and travel hours back to where we came from. We spend hours in a cramped position. Meanwhile, the thickened blood is pooling.The body is still dehydrated. The body is forced into the worst position to get the blood pumping throughout the body again. This is where the start of a clot in the legs (in the deep veins) can begin.

According to a www.airhealth.org 85% of air travel thrombosis are atheletes.

What can you do to help minimize your risk of a DVT?
Keep hydrated or get hydrated after the event. Keep hydrated on the plane! Keep legs moving. Get up and move every 15 minutes. Do not stay seated for prolonged periouds of time. Stop the car every 1/2 hour and get out and walk. Move your legs and change position during the car ride. If you inured yourself or became dehydrated you are at a higher risk!

What are some symptoms of a clot forming?
If a clot forms, it usually feels like a cramp in the leg, sometimes causing significant pain and swelling. There may also be a bruising or swelling behind the knee. If your doctor says it’s just a sprain ask for an ultrasound of the area.

If you have chest symptoms and you are being told you have a chest infection, anxiety attack, heart attack, or anything else other than PE (pulmonary embolism), ask for a blood oxygen measurement. They will attach a pulse ox to your finger. If the reading is less than 80, you should be checked for a PE.

What else can you do?

Hydration

Movement-as much as possible after a race

Compression Stockings-compression stockings (not support hose) work by being very tight around the ankles, and become looser up the leg. By being constrictive, they will force the increase of the velocity of the blood. The blood will move faster.

Being aware of your body. www.airhealth.org publishes a free leaflet http://www.airhealth.org/leaflet.html that you can use as a wallet card to help remind you of what else to do after that long run!

Oh, it won’t happen to me…..
It happens to athletes. ALL THE TIME. I have 2 friends in 6 months. Some other names and their accounts:
Frey Maxim professional triathlete http://freybird.blogspot.com/2009/01/deep-vein-thrombosis-for-cyclist.html
Steve Lehman endurance biker http://www.tristatevelo.com/node/87

More articles:
http://www.trifuel.com/triathlon/health/your-last-tri-race-clot-die-001509.php
http://www.airhealth.org/index.html
http://blog.garymoller.com/2008/01/how-to-prevent-deep-vein-thrombosis-in.html

And on a personal note, I am going to have my calf checked out. I’ve had a pain in my left calf for about 2-3 months now. The pain comes and goes. I’ve had a massage, which has not helped, and the pain is still there. I’ve been thinking it is just a knot, but with all the reading I have been doing, I think I would like to rule out a clot!

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