NASCAR's Brian Vickers Out for Season Due to Blood Clotting Disorder

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Brian Vickers announced on Friday that health problems will force him to miss the rest of the NASCAR season, but that he plans to return to racing in time for the 2011 Daytona 500.

Vickers, 26, was recently hospitalized in Washington DC after complaining of chest pains. During a CT scan, Vickers was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis in his left leg, and doctors further found blood clots in both lungs, blocking blood vessels, a condition called pulmonary embolism.

According to Dr. Steven Limentani, a hematologist and oncologist in Charlotte who is treating Vickers, blood clots are not rare for a 26-year-old, but they don’t have all the answers. The race car driver is currently on blood thinners and is undergoing further testing to find the cause of the clotting disorder. The treatment time is about a three to six month process. “If something changes and I can get (back) sooner, then great,” Vickers said.

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In most blood clotting disorders, a blood clot or thrombus blocks veins more often than arteries. The deep veins in the legs are most commonly affected, hence the name deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

There are many possible causes for blood clotting dysfunction. Not moving around sufficiently can slow blood flow and cause blood to pool in the veins, such as spending long periods of time in a car or airplane. Certain medical conditions can cause blood clots to form more readily, such as antiphospholipid syndrome where clotting factors in the blood are “overactive”, a condition called hypercoagulation. Some genetic disorders cause the body not to form enough of a protein that controls clotting, such as Protein S Deficiency or Factor V Leiden mutation.

Regardless of the cause, blood clots left untreated can cause many problems, including damage to the blood vessels or organs. If the clot blocks a critical blood vessel, it can cause potentially fatal pulmonary embolism, strokes, or heart attacks.

More than 60,000 Americans die each year from venous thromboembolism. In addition, nearly half of patients with DVT experience long-term health consequences that adversely affect their quality of life.

Vickers is remaining positive about both his health and the future of his racing career. “I want nothing more than to be back in the race car, but it’s not my personality to focus on the negative,” he said Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “It’s not who I am, who I’ve ever been. It’s the cards I’ve been dealt. I can’t change that right now. I’m going to take every opportunity to be positive through this and deal with it and be better when I get back in the race car.”

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