Athletes and Pulmonary Embolism

Aimee N. Thompson,
California University of Pennsylvania

Full paper: www.kon.org/urc/v12/akopyan.html

Abstract A pulmonary embolism is an obstruction of one or more arteries in the lungs. In most cases, a pulmonary embolism is caused by a blood clot that travels to the lungs from another part of the body. Due to the severity of a pulmonary embolism, various complications such as difficulty breathing, heart failure, or death may occur. Blood clots typically are uncommon in young, healthy individuals. Athletes are generally healthy and well-conditioned individuals but can be at a greater risk of developing a pulmonary embolism because symptoms may be misinterpreted by something less serious and become undiagnosed. This study discussed the leading causes of pulmonary emboli and determined whether or not they related to one another in the athletic population. Current clinical research suggests that post-surgical complications, genetic mutations, protein deficiencies, and oral contraceptives are leading causes of pulmonary emboli. This study compared the leading causes of pulmonary emboli in the athletic population and determined what predisposed them to this pathology.

Introduction A pulmonary embolism is a leading cause of unexpected death in the United States with an estimated number of 50,000 to 200,000 deaths every year (Kahanov & Daly, 2009). A pulmonary embolism is an obstruction of one or more arteries in the lungs. In most cases, a pulmonary embolism is caused by a blood clot that travels through the bloodstream to the lungs from another part of the body (Goldhaber, 2004). A pulmonary embolism is one of the many complications of deep vein thrombosis. There are a number of other reasons an individual could develop a pulmonary embolism, but the leading causes of pulmonary emboli are post surgery complications, genetic clotting disorders, protein deficiencies, or use of oral contraceptives. Pulmonary emboli can occur in all different populations. Many individuals may think that blood clots are only problematic in the elderly and do not occur in young or healthy individuals. This statement is not true. Pulmonary emboli in athletes may be misdiagnosed because signs such as shortness in breath, rapid heart rate, and chest pain are common occurrences in competing athletes. Due to this assumption, health care providers may not consider such medical problems.

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