Xterra athlete Wendy Simms sustained a large cut at a multiday mountain bike race in Europe in 2004 and flew home the next day, ignoring symptoms of sharp pains on inhalation. She wound up in the hospital for a week with a pulmonary embolism—a serious condition that occurs when a blood clot breaks off in the arm or leg and travels to the lungs—and spent six months on the blood-thinner Coumadin, sidelining her.
Keep in mind the following risk factors, symptoms and ways to prevent blood clots from happening to you:
- Traveling long-distance to competitions in a cramped position
- Severe dehydration from racing a grueling event
- For women who use birth-control pills, the combination of dehydration from altitude and racing plus travel without recovery
- Sustaining even minor cuts during a race and promptly getting on a plane
- Swelling, pain or tenderness, usually in one leg
- Reddish or bluish discoloration of the skin
- Shortness of breath, sharp pains or difficulty breathing (go to the hospital immediately)
Take walking breaks and stretch during long trips, stay hydrated and find out if you have a family history of blood clots. Finally, “lower-leg compression gear can serve a second purpose—to reduce [deep vein thrombosis] risk during long-distance travel,” says osteopathic physician Chris Miars.