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Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh is facing the harsh reality known to many who have been treated for blood clots: unfortunately, a recurrence can be common.
In February 2015, Bosh was diagnosed with a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot which formed in a deep vein of his calf. A piece of that clot then broke off from the wall of the vessel, traveled via the bloodstream up the body, through the right side of his heart, and lodged in an artery of his lung, blocking blood flow through the lung – a very serious, even life-threatening, condition known as a pulmonary embolism (PE).
Pulmonary embolisms can cause damage to the lung tissue, and put increased strain on the heart. This could even cause the heart to become enlarged, or in a worst-case scenario, lead to heart failure.
Bosh was rushed to South Miami Hospital, where he avoided a potential life-threatening situation.
Blood clots can form in people who have a genetic predisposition to them, but most commonly they are caused by long periods of immobility in many cases from prolonged air travel (particularly for players of Bosh’s height, 6-feet, 11-inches, where leg room is more limited), after having undergone surgery, or after having experienced a recent trauma, making professional athletes, who frequently deal with one or all of these issues, particularly susceptible.
Blood clots are treated with anticoagulant drugs (blood thinners), which prevent further blood clots from forming as the body’s normal systems work to break up the existing clot(s). Blood thinners can stop clots from forming, slow down the formation of clots, stop clots from getting bigger, or prevent clots that have already formed from travelling to other parts of the body. Treatment is typically continued for three to six months.
Blood thinning medications save lives. But, they also pose one possible and very serious side effect: Bleeding.
Since blood thinners slow the clotting of blood, unwanted and sometimes dangerous bleeding can occur with the use of these medications. Although infrequent, uncontrolled bleeding caused by blood thinners can be very serious. A blow to the head, for example, can cause bleeding on the brain and kill you!
Doctors and teams are therefore hesitant to allow players on blood thinners to return to contact sports, where a potential trauma could have disastrous consequences.
Bosh missed the remainder of the 2014-15 while taking Xarelto, one of a handful of the newer anticoagulant drugs on the market today.
After treatment with blood thinning medications along with adequate rest after treatment, many athletes, including Mirza Teletovic with the Brooklyn Nets this past season and Anderson Varejao with the Cleveland Cavaliers two seasons prior, have been able to resume play and go on with their careers.
Bosh returned to play start the 2015-16 season. He indicated upon his return that, according to testing, he was not aware of any hereditary issues he may have that would increase the risk for recurring episodes, leading to optimism that he could resume his career without further incident.