UPDATE: Chris Bosh’s season is over, with the Heat announcing Saturday that, as suspected, blood clots were found on one of his lungs. The problem, if it had not been caught, could have killed the 30-year-old, who had been fighting pain in his side and back for several days.
The latest report on Chris Bosh’s health shook up the NBA on Friday, and provided the impetus for added caution on the part of Bosh, his doctors and the Miami Heat. The report: Doctors feared that Bosh could have the same condition that killed retired NBA player Jerome Kersey earlier this week.
On Friday, Bosh underwent tests in a South Florida hospital to determine whether blood clots have broken loose from his legs and traveled to his lungs. A medical examiner in Oregon determined that a large clot from Kersey’s left calf reached his lung, causing his death at age 52.
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Many people experience blood clots — up to 600,000 Americans each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — and Jeffrey A. Gold, a pulmonary specialist at Oregon Health and Science University, told the Oregonian that in about one-third of those cases, the clot heads up from the leg, through the heart and reaches the lungs.
This condition, known as a pulmonary embolism, creates a clogged blood vessel, blocking blood from being pumped, Gold said. Though not usually fatal, the result can be heart failure or it can cut off the body’s supply of oxygen because the lungs can’t function.
Gold said clots can form in the legs for numerous reasons, including injury or genetics.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has said Bosh’s condition isn’t life-threatening. But how serious is it?
Well, Bosh wouldn’t even be the first NBA player sidelined by the condition this season. Last month, Brooklyn Nets forward Mirza Teletovic was ruled out for the season once clots were found on his lungs. Two years ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Anderson Varejao needed season-ending surgery to remove a clot in his lung.
However, other cases have been more serious — and even fatal.
Former Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Jason Pinkston’s career may be over after he was diagnosed with clots on his lungs last year for a second time. And in 2005, Arizona women’s basketball player Shawntinice Polk collapsed and died from a clot just weeks before she was to begin her senior season.
Before this week, the most famous instance of an athlete with a pulmonary embolism was Serena Williams in 2011. As Heat fans worry about Bosh, they may be able to take encouragement from how Williams, after her recovery, came back to continue her dominance of women’s tennis.
"Scariest thing I ever experienced," Williams said months after returning.
And there have been other athletes to suffer the condition but return to keep performing. Tomas Fleischmann of the Florida Panthers missed several months with clots while playing with Colorado in 2011 and has had a robust career since. NASCAR driver Brian Vickers also has overcome similar issues.
But this week, following the death of Kersey, the possibility of blood clots in Bosh was enough to shake up good friends Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, who offered encouragement.
Man my heart real heavy right now thinking about @chrisbosh health! Especially after hearing about Kersey the other day. My prayers are….