Ausar Thompson’s Career Isn’t Finished, Although Season Is

Detroit Pistons rookie small forward Ausar Thompson’s first pro season in the NBA is done. The 6’7″ swingman was ruled out for the season with what the team called a blood clot. Exact details about the specific strain of blood clot have yet to be divulged. He has been cleared to partake in non-contact practice activities already, so it seems that the team is hopeful he can return next season.

Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press spoke University of Michigan Health Frankel Cardiovascular Center cardiologist and vascular medicine specialist Dr. Geoffrey Barnes to learn more about the risks of blood clots. Sankofa reveals that a blood clot diagnosis includes both a deep vein thrombosis, a clot in a player’s leg veins, or a pulmonary embolism, which is clot that has made its way to the lungs. Barnes notes that the latter is typically referred to as a blood clot by laypeople.

“That’s usually what people mean when they say ‘Oh, they have blood clots,'” Barnes said. “It’s something in the vein system, starts in the legs, can break free and travel to the lungs. It’s incredibly common, over a million people every year in America get these… They tend to happen most commonly in folks as they age, so it’s much more common in people over the age of 60 or 65 than in younger folks. They can happen for a wide range of reasons. But oftentimes they just come out of the blue and we can never figure out exactly why somebody developed their blood clot.”

Worst-case scenario, a big clot in someone’s lungs could be prohibitive for blood flow and strain someone’s heart, which could increase heart rate and would decrease access to oxygen, a scary scenario that often requires additional steps from medical professionals. It sounds like that was averted here with Thompson. At least for now.

“That’s when people are in the hospital, we often have to do surgery or procedure to try and remove the blood clot and figure out ways to really support them through it,” Barnes noted. “It’s a really wide-ranging condition. Thankfully, the vast majority of people do very well and have more minor blood clots, the forms in the legs or a small one in the lungs that aren’t life-threatening.”

Cade Cunningham, Ausar Thompson
Cade Cunningham #2 and Ausar Thompson #9 of the Detroit Pistons look on against the Chicago Bulls during the first half at the United Center on February 27, 2024 in Chicago, Illinois. Thompson is now…

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

“The highest-risk people maybe have a genetic disorder that puts them at risk for blood clots,” Barnes continued. “Maybe they have cancer or another condition. Those are people who I get really concerned about. Some people have one blood clot and never have anything again the rest of their life, and don’t have other significant risk factors.

“As you think about an athlete, it really depends on what kind of athlete and what kinds of activities that they’re doing,” Barnes said. “You could imagine that maybe a golfer or a billiard player, somebody who is a high-level athlete but doesn’t necessarily have that same level of cardiovascular strain might not be at quite as high a risk as somebody who, say, is a soccer player who’s having to run 10 miles every game and is having issues with dehydration and is flying all over the world. It depends on the situation for each athlete.”