by: William Allen
The All Vol Call in Show
In October of 2018, physicians discovered a recurrence of blood clots in Tennessee Vols star Offensive lineman Trey Smith. He was the first Vol true freshman to start at left tackle in years while earning All SEC Second Team and SEC All Freshman in 2017. He’s since received consistent treatment and started 12 games in 2019 while earning the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year.
With the 2020 college football season on-the-line due to COVID-19, Smith has spoken out about his concern that the season will be cancelled.
“It would tick me off to my core if we’re snubbed and that opportunity gets taken away from me to go out there and prove myself,” Smith told ESPN. “I’m not knocking any president or chancellor, who absolutely do fabulous jobs, but it would be awesome as players if we could be informed and heard from and quit finding out things about the season possibly being canceled on Twitter and in the media.”
College football stars such as Trevor Lawrence of Clemson, Justin Fields of Ohio State and President Donald Trump are pushing for sports to resume this fall. The United States President recently retweeted a post from Lawrence that said, “The student athletes have been working too hard for their seasons to be cancelled.” Trey Smith wanting to return to college football despite the warnings that COVID-19 could significantly increase his chances of severe health because of blood clots on his lung is a big decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
University of Vermont released an article by writer Jennifer Nachbur on studies done by Mary Cushman, M.D. UVM Professor of Medicine and Director, Thrombosis and Hemostasis Program.
“Obesity is a risk factor for these abnormal blood clots,” says Cushman. “Most athletes aren’t obese, but research suggest that larger people are more at risk.”
Athletes who use their arms heavily are at increased risk of having blood clots in or near the arms. When the thoracic outlet near the base of the neck is narrowed by enlarged muscles or injury, the veins passing through the outlet are susceptible to clots due to the decreased passage.
Well known athlete and tennis icon Serena Williams had a Pulmonary Embolism (PE) in 2011 after a foot injury and a long air flight. Williams nearly lost her life. A (PE) is a condition in which one or more arteries in the lungs become blocked by a blood clot. Most times it’s caused by blood clots that travel from the legs or, rarely, other parts of the body which is a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).
Trey Smith is not the only athlete to be diagnosed with blood clots on his lung during a promising career. Miami Heat basketball star power forward Chris Bosh had a PE in February 2015 and missed the rest of the season while undergoing treatment. Bosh missed the 2016 NBA Playoffs after he was diagnosed with a DVT in his leg. Bosh fought to resume his playing career for three years before announcing his retirement in February 2019.
Chargers offensive tackle Russell Okung survived a near death experience in 2019, reported by the Los Angeles Times. On June 1, 2019 Okung suffered a PE at camp.
“After experiencing unusual chest pains at practice, I went to urgent care out of an abundance of caution,” the post read. “According to doctors who treated me, the decision to do so saved my life.” Okung, 31, is a two time Pro Bowler and was set to begin his 10th NFL season in 2019. He now plays left tackle for the Carolina Panthers after missing 10 games last year due to blood clots. Today he’s evaluating whether to retire due to the spread of coronavirus across the country.
The question is can athletes return to their sport to play after being diagnosed with blood clots, PE or DVT? Mary Cushman, M.D. at UVA Medical Center goes on to mention, “There’s no medical guidelines for athletes so the treatment is customized.”
“If the clot occurs spontaneously, even one episode of clotting can mean a recommendation for long term treatment with blood thinning medication”, says Cushman. “For professional athletes, this might be the end of their career, although every sport is different.”
January 9, 2020, Trey Smith announced he will return for his senior season at Tennessee instead of entering the 2020 NFL Draft. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. had Smith slotted as the 7th best offensive guard in the 2020 NFL Draft. Smith’s decision to stay for one more season is key for an offensive line that returns the starting lineup from the Gator Bowl victory over Indiana. If Cade Mays becomes eligible this season after transferring from Georgia, the Vols offensive line will have one of the best offensive lines in the SEC.