Elite Runner suffers a spontaneous pnuemothorax – AT plays a key role

10 May

Minneapolis, MN

Rarely does a 40-minute jog turn into a medical crisis for an elite runner.  But on the afternoon of Sept. 3, 2010, it did.  Hassan Mead, recovering from an inflamed right Achilles’ tendon, stayed in Minneapolis to train while the Gophers cross-country team competed in Utah. The injury cost him the previous track season, and he was trying to make a comeback.  Early that Friday afternoon, Mead ran by himself from the Bierman Athletic Building to East River Road. As he ran along the Mississippi River, under the Lake Street bridge, he experienced a sudden sharp pain in his back.  He assumed it was a muscle cramp. But the pain increased until it virtually crippled him.  His right lung collapsed.   He needed help.

By the time of his fateful September workout, Mead was a seven-time Big Ten champion and six-time All-America.  “I have had [muscle cramps] before,” Mead said. “Out running you just get cramped up. But what was so odd was that it came quicker. Usually you see it building up.  “I pulled over and stretched and took a deep breath … and, as I did that, it seemed like someone jerked my ribs toward my chest.”  Mead turned back toward the university.  “Jogging was impossible and walking got more difficult,” he said.  He walked about 1 1/2 miles to Franklin Avenue. By then, he was struggling. His upper body was tilted sideways, trying to minimize the pain. He had to keep stopping to catch his breath.  “By the time that it got really painful, I was looking for anyone, even somebody on a bike,” Mead said. “But it was a good 35 minutes when no one came. Not even cars came by. It was silent, which is rare on the River Road. People are usually walking their dogs, jogging. There is always somebody moving. It was like 2:30 in the afternoon.”  Then a car drove by, stopped and backed up. A young nurse was on her way to work at the University of Minnesota Medical Center Fairview, still two-thirds of a mile away. She asked if he needed assistance.  “I was very appreciative of that,” said Mead, hurting too much to ask her name.  She took him back to Bierman. Mead, by then suspecting his pain was from muscle spasms, put several ice bags on his ribs. A concerned athletic trainer asked a doctor to examine Mead.  Soon Mead was getting X-rays at a university emergency room, then getting tubes inserted into his chest cavity to remove the air building up outside his collapsed lung. 

About 9,000 Americans a year have a spontaneous pneumothorax, the medical term for a collapsed lung; tall and skinny men like Mead, ages 20 to 40, are especially at risk.  Mead was hospitalized for 17 days. To get his right lung to stay up properly he needed surgery; the lining of that lung was irritated so it would scar up against his chest wall.  After being released, one of the top college runners in the country took a month off while the three small holes in his chest from the tubes and surgery healed. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: