Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bicycle Safety

I have recently spent time in the Tampa Bay area as part of my annual spring training tour. I have been consulting for the New York Yankees for fifteen years and this year, I have also been invited up to Lakeland, Florida to discuss the early recognition and treatment of concussion with the Detroit Tigers medical staff.

While here, two bicyclists have died from injuries after being hit by motorists. A total of 15 bicyclists have died in the Tampa Bay area since July of 2010. This situation has captured my attention because it may indicate that we should expect more injuries in Connecticut this year as weather warms and gas prices soar.

I am also alarmed by the fact that despite the usual precautions of wearing a helmet, making yourself visible and remaining alert, many may still be harmed. The reason for many of these incidents is distracted driving. More drivers are now texting, or trying to make a call while operating a vehicle. In the split second that these drivers divert their attention away from the road, bicycle riders can be hit and severely injured.

The only recourse is for bicyclists to be vigilant at all times and to avoid riding in traffic when possible. If we are to encourage bicycling as an alternative means of transportation, communities must crack down on distracted drivers and create safer bike lanes for travel.

What ideas do you have for safer bicycle travel?

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Pulmonary Embolism Can Strike Anyone

Tennis champion Serena Williams was recently hospitalized for treatment of a life-threatening pulmonary embolus. While it may be surprising to hear about a world class athlete being stricken by a condition typically associated with inactivity, athletes can be particularly susceptible to this condition.

A pulmonary embolus is the result of a clot traveling through the circulatory system and lodging in the lungs. There it will obstruct blood flow to the lungs. These emboli usually originate in the veins of the lower extremities as a thrombosis.

Symptoms of a pulmonary embolus include; chest pain, shortness of breath, unexplained coughing and rapid heart rate. Each year 600,000 Americans suffer a pulmonary embolus and 60,000 of these patients will die.

Traveling long distances, dehydration, trauma, immobilization, oral contraceptive use and family history are all risk factors. Many of these factors are common among injured athletes.

Ms. Williams has recently had two surgeries for a foot injury and has been wearing an immobilizing brace. The event occurred shortly after a transcontinental flight. Fortunately, her condition was treated quickly with anti-coagulant (blood thinning) medications.

The best way to prevent pulmonary emboli is to stretch often when traveling, remain well hydrated and be aware of symptoms.

Pulmonary emboli can affect anyone, but a few simple steps can avoid serious injury.