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Brian Vickers to sit out the rest of the Sprint Cup season recovering from blood clots

  Brian Vickers (Photo: Toyota Motorsports)


   By Mike Mulhern


      Brian Vickers says he will be sidelined the rest of the NASCAR season because of the blood thinner medications he will have to take for at least six months because of blood clots discovered last week in both his lungs and left leg.
   Casey Mears will continue substituting for Vickers in the Jay Frye-Dietrich Mateschitz Toyota, Frye said.
   His doctor, Steven A. Limentani, a specialist in Charlotte, says the blood clots apparently developed in Vickers' legs and then broke off and traveled to his lungs. But Limentani said the lung areas affected were relatively small, so his lung capacity, once he's recovered, shouldn't be significantly affected.
   Vickers was in Washington, D. C., last week on a PR tour when he came down with what felt like broken ribs Tuesday May 11th. He described the pain as a 10 on a scale of 1-to-10, "for about 30 minutes. Out of 100 percent lung capacity, I could probably take only five percent breaths. It was probably the most excruciating pain I've ever had."
   But he toughed it out through the night. He was finally persuaded on Wednesday to go to an emergency room, where the diagnosis was made.
   Vickers was released to fly home Friday, but Saturday night the pain returned and he was readmitted to a Charlotte area hospital, and released Monday.
   One of the medications Vickers will have to take is Coumadin (http://bit.ly/995ada ) . That's a blood thinner, which has the potential side effect of bleeding.
   Limentani said the initial situation was serious but not immediately life-threatening. He described the situation as a "garden-variety deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism....not immediately life-threatening "
  He added "it's impossible to tell when it would have become a major problem....but for people with pulmonary embolisms who don't get treated dont' have a good outcome." 
   And Limentani curtly dismissed a two-year-old Australian article about a possible relationship between Red Bull (which happens to be Vickers' sponsor) and blood clots, pointing out several limitations in the study:
   "You look at that abstract -- and an 'abstract' is a preliminary finding which has not undergone peer review, and it may be interesting, and presented in a limited fashion so people can think about it -- speculated, but did not -- I repeat, did not -- show an effect on cardiovascular pulmonary function. And nowhere in that abstract did they describe anything referring to a thrombosis (blood clot)."
  Limentani said the article described a study in which Red Bull was given to "30 healthy volunteers... with no controls - we don't know what would have happened if they had drunk a glass of milk or cup of coffee or ginger ale....That particularly abstract was, A, very preliminary, and, B, didn't show one iota of evidence that in any way pertains to what has happened to Brian Vickers."


  Brian Vickers (C), flanked by his medical specialist Dr. Steven Limentani and his team's general manager Jay Frye (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Vickers, looking healthy, was in good spirits, all things considered,
and joking at times.    "I was going to Walter Reed to visit with the troops..unfortunately I ended up in the wrong hospital," the 26-year-old Thomasville, N.C., driver said. "Instead of Walter Reed, I wound up in Washington Hospital Center (http://bit.ly/cj70jW ).
   "I woke up with chest pains and had a hard time breathing, but being young felt I was invincible, so I just went back to sleep. Next day I was walking around the Capital, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, with a friend, and it got worse. I called Dr. (Jerry) Petty (a Charlotte doctor well-known in NASCAR circles), and he convinced me to go to the emergency room.
   "I thought it was overkill. But he said get a CT scan, so I did.
   "They found the blood clots in both lungs and the left leg, and immediately started me on Lovenox (http://bit.ly/dAbj1d ) , Heparin (http://bit.ly/aUwKmU ) and Coumadin. Pretty standard procedure."
   The pain has gone, he said.
  "We don't have all the answers, so we won't speculate," Vickers said as to why this all happened.
   "Due to the blood thinners I'm on, I will be out of the car for a minimum of six months...the rest of the year.
   "As you can imagine, that is killing me. No pun intended.
   "As I was laying in the hospital last week, instead of me asking the right questions, like 'Am I going to live?' I kept asking 'Can I race this weekend?'
   "As reality set in, I realized this was going to be a much longer process.
   "I'm very fortunate that it happened the way it happened....I'm lucky. Thank God I'm still here.
   "As disappointing as this is, I am going to make a positive of this: it is an opportunity I can use to make more of life. Spend more time with the team, learning what they go through; spend some time on the pit box.
   "I won't be coming to every single race; I'm going to take some time off, and rest some...and do some stuff I really want do. Maybe go to a Formula One race (where Red Bull is cleaning house this spring)."

    Vickers will continue his exercise regime, "and I plan to be in the best shape I can be for the 2011 season, starting with the Daytona 500.
   "Everything increases in risk. So I can't do most of the things I love – skydiving, racing, snowboarding, skiing, motorcycles....
   "Anytime you're on blood thinners you run a risk of bleeding, externally or internally."

   Brian Vickers: the doctors say he can't do anything that requires a helmet....for at least six months (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Limentani said for people such as Vickers suffering from deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms "exercise is good.
   "The limitation is 'if you have to wear a helmet to do it, it's probably not okay."
   Why did this condition develop?
   The testing in a situation like this could take several weeks, Limentani said. And he warned there might not be a definitive answer, even then.
   Rare? Not common, Limentani says, but not uncommon either.
   "Usually this occurs in people from 40 to 55, and usually it happens because of a clear cause, like surgery," Limentani said.
   "We don't really know yet, and we're not going to speculate," Vickers added. "It could have been any one of a number of things I do.
   "And we might not ever find the answer."
   Vickers said a three-month treatment regiment was possible, but he and Limentani have ruled that out.
   "For me to come back, with eight races left in the year, and to risk this coming back again, I don't think the reward outweighs the risk," Vickers said. "So we are going to go the full course and be committed to resolving this issue, so it won't be an issue again."
   Getting the news of having to sit out the rest of the year was heartbreaking he conceded.
   However Limentani said  "The risk of recurrent problems is significantly lower for six months (treatment) rather than three."
   But extrapolating past six months, Limentani said, would be "speculating."

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  Jay Frye, team general manager, will stick with Casey Mears, though leaving open the posibility of a different driver for the tour's two road courses. Dealing with a suddenly sidelined driver isn't new for Frye, who unfortunately has been through similar traumatic situations before -- with Ernie
Irvan, and with Jerry Nadeau
(Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

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