Last Updated on September 29, 2019 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP
It appears I’m full of PSA posts around here lately, but this one is probably a subject that has NEVER crossed most of your minds…yet as endurance athletes, you NEED to be aware of. Please, please, please take a few minutes and read this.
First off, I *must* take a very serious moment to be a mother hen and remind you …if you EVER feel in your heart of hearts, your intuition, your Jedi-mind, whatever you want to call it, that something is NOT RIGHT with your body…get checked. Don’t worry about the nurses or doctors thinking you are a hypochondriac or over reacting or whatever. It’s their job to make sure you are OK, and frankly, it’s better to be a bit embarrassed than it is to be DEAD.
Long story short (and I apologize to my sister now for making her business even more public than she already has, but I feel it’s important, and I’m sure she would agree) running saved my sisters life this week.
Rewind a few weeks: she raced Vineman 70.3 in California, and a few days later made a cross country flight. A day or two after the flight, she called me complaining of calf pain that went away when sitting. My GUT instinct was deep vein thrombosis (DVT) as the calf pain that goes away when sitting is a red flag for intermittent claudication. Her instinct said the same, especially since she knew of a fellow triathlete who had recently had this happen , so after we talked, she went to the doctor. They gave her the all clear, she was fine. It left my mind and hers as well.
Well, FAST FORWARD a few weeks. Out of nowhere, her running was becoming more and more difficult, and she was struggling to breathe. As she told me, Wednesday morning she woke up feeling crappy. That same morning, she took a look at her Garmin’s stats for the past week. Over the course of a week, she went from running an easy pace while carrying on conversation with a friend….to running an incredibly difficult, labored pace that was 2 minutes per mile SLOWER than the run earlier that week. Her gut instinct told her SOMETHING was not right. There was no reason running this pace should feel so hard. So she went to the doctor.
What she had guessed might be some sort of allergy, asthma, or virus….turned out to be two very large pulmonary embolisms (blood clots in the lungs). She didn’t realize it at the time she walked into the doctor, that her life was in critical condition, and she was immediately admitted to the Intensive Care Unit with strict instructions to NOT MOVE.
By the grace of GOD , she is now feeling FINE and out of the ICU. Resting up in the hospital, pumped full of anticoagulants, and told she’ll be released Monday and back to normal activity very soon. Had she NOT followed her instincts and gone to the doctor when she did…well, I’d prefer to not even think about that. We are very very very (times a billion verys) VERY BLESSED!
So listen up: here are the facts my friends:
- DVT affects about 2 million Americans a year. Failure to correctly diagnose blood clot formation causes up to 100,000 deaths a year. [Clinical Advisor, June 2004, page 53]
- 85% of air travel thrombosis victims are athletic, usually endurance athletes[www.airhealth.org/athletes.html, July 11, 2004]
- If not treated, DVT can lead to pulmonary embolism or stroke caused by blood clots moving from the legs to the heart or the brain. Both conditions can lead to death.
- An athlete does not have to fly to be susceptible to DVT. The physical constraints imposed during an air flight can be present in everyday life, but not recognized. (car rides, office chairs, sitting around all weekend because your marathon legs hurt?)
- Often there are no symptoms until several days after the flight and the victim has no idea what is wrong. DVT is usually mistaken for a cramp
- MOVE! Leg exercises can even be done while sitting down.
- Wear graduated compression socks and/or tights . YES they are expensive, but YES they are WORTH it!! Plus, they really do make your legs feel good and promote recovery !
So, now you know too. Thank you for reading. PLEASE share this information with all of your endurance friends as well. And stay HEALTHY my friends!