Jeff Green, a 25-year-old forward, had signed a one-year, $9 million contract to play for the Boston Celtics. During a routine preseason physical examination, he was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm. Instead of heading over to the practice court, Green was headed to the operating room.
The aorta is the largest artery in the human body. It provides the main passageway for richly oxygenated blood to vital organs. The aorta is divided into two main sections:
• The thoracic aorta leads blood from the heart and downward through the chest cavity.
• The abdominal aorta continues into the abdomen feeding branches to the kidneys, liver, spleen and intestines.
An aneurysm is an abnormal enlargement of a blood vessel. It results from a weakening of the supporting tissue that provides a firm lining in an artery. Under constant pressure, the weakened area will enlarge and cause the artery to dilate and eventually rupture. This results in profuse life-threatening hemorrhage.
Aortic aneurysms can be repaired by cutting out the affected section of aorta and replacing it with a synthetic segment. Another approach is an endovascular repair. In this procedure, a new lining is inserted in the weakened area via a catheter through an artery in the groin.
Aneurysms are typically associated with high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, obesity and smoking. All of these potential causes are not typically associated with professional athletes.
Green’s aneurysm will be repaired and he is expected to return to the NBA next season.
Jeff Green’s circumstance should serve as a reminder of the importance to have annual physicals performed by a physician even if you are young and in excellent health.