Thursday, August 4, 2011

Philadelphia Eagles' Mike Patterson has AVM - An Explanation Of Why He Should Now Retire

The Philadelphia Eagles' Dream Team season got a dose of reality yesterday when defensive tackle Mike Patterson was diagnosed with AVM - Atrioventricular malformation.  The following is an explanation of what it is, and why Patterson might have to retire.

An AVM is a congenital abnormality of the blood vessels where the normal communication of blood from arteries to veins is abnormal.  In a normal brain, arteries take blood away from the heart and into the brain.  As the arteries go deeper into the brain tissue, they become smaller and smaller and eventually turn into tiny vessels called capillaries.  The capillaries then collect the blood into more blood vessels called veins that then take the blood back to the heart.
In an AVM, instead of a capillary "bed" that can share the pressure of the blood coming from the artery, there is usually one single larger connection between the artery and corresponding vein.  This connection, over time, can weaken under that pressure and begin to cause symptoms.

Patterson had a seizure on the football field, which is one of the most common symptoms of an AVM.  Many times they go undiagnosed or don't show symptoms until much later in life.  One of the more serious complications that can result is if the AVM tears and begins to bleed into the brain.

While it is amazing in itself that with Patterson's career choice he hasn't had complications prior to this week, he has no doubt had symptoms that he probably attributed to playing football such as chronic headaches.

Team doctors haven't released information that indicate that Patterson's seizure was a result of bleeding, but that is a possibility.  Now that the NFL knows he has an AVM, Patterson won't be cleared to play until the malformation is fixed, and even then he might not be able to play.

With the NFL's new emphasis on preventing and monitoring long-term brain disease in its players, Patterson would seem like a obvious candidate for retirement.  An AVM can damage brain tissue for years prior to its identification, and if the AVM did bleed then that would accelerate brain damage in that particular area.

Knowing that his particular brain has a head start on the degenerative changes (known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) that many retired football players endure, seven-year veteran Patterson would be wise to consider getting out now before he incurs further damage.

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