I am a 55 year old male who started rowing at school when I was 12; I had my first DVT (deep vein thrombosis) at the age of 30.
DVT in calf muscle. Image Credit: WikiHow
I had typical symptoms – painful, swollen calf that was warm to the touch. It was misdiagnosed as a calf muscle strain due to being young and fit. I was placed on Coumadin for 6 months and never thought anything about it. The doctor wasn’t too concerned. It was just an anomaly as far as he was concerned. Since that time my right calf was always bigger than the left calf with increased swelling especially by the end of the day. Again, I was told not to be concerned. I later learned through a healthcare practitioner (my wife!) who specializes in lymphatic drainage that the possible reason for the continued swelling was due to damage caused by the clot which is not uncommon if it was a sizeable clot.
By 2016, my usual workouts were becoming difficult.
My erg splits were going up and I had difficulty getting enough oxygen per stroke. I would climb a flight of stairs and become short of breath. I went to my PCP who knew of my prior medical history and was told there was nothing wrong. After 6 months and several visits to my doctor, I was referred to a cardiologist for no reason other than my doctor had no answers.
In January 2017 I saw the cardiologist and explained my symptoms. I did not have “typical” DVT symptoms as I did 25 years previously and I was deemed “heart healthy”. Being aware of my past medical history, he wanted to do one test to rule out a possible DVT even though he thought it was unlikely I had a DVT. The test was overwhelmingly positive. I was rushed to the hospital to discover I had extensive DVT in my right femoral artery causing 99% occlusion, a smaller DVT in the left calf and three pulmonary emboli. I was placed on Warfarin and will remain on it for life. After extensive testing and consulting with different haematologists, I have no blood abnormalities and do not have a genetic predisposition to clotting.
Rowing and DVT
Although my doctors do not know the exact cause of my clots, I do have a suspicion that it has something to do with dehydration and elevated lactate in the blood from hard training? As a master’s rower, I train approximately an hour a day, either on the erg or in a scull, covering 10 to 15 km each session. Living in South Florida, the average temperature in the summer months is 90 degrees fahrenheit and in the winter, 75-80 degrees. Humidity is high. During an hour rowing session, I would lose on average four pounds due to fluid loss/sweating.
As rowers, we have to be aware that DVT’s can occur and may remain undetected by physicians.
Quoting from Stop The Clot website – “Healthcare providers may delay or miss blood clot diagnosis, including deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE), among athletes who exhibit classic symptoms. Why? Because healthcare providers often do not consider blood clots something that affects athletes. Blood clots are uncommon in young, healthy individuals – and most athletes are young and healthy. So, for that reason, DVT, PE, and arterial clots in athletes are not the norm.”**