Defensive tackle Mike Patterson of the Philadelphia Eagles left the August 3rd practice after a four minute seizure. The Eagle’s practice resumed while Patterson was placed into an ambulance. It has subsequently been determined that Patterson suffered an Arterio Venous Malformation, or AVM.
The Mayo Clinic describes an AVM as a “an abnormal connection between arteries and veins.”
An AVM is typically congenital, meaning it dates to birth. An AVM can develop anywhere in your body but occurs most often in the brain or spine. A brain AVM, which appears as a tangle of abnormal arteries and veins, can occur in any part of your brain. The cause isn’t clear.You may not know you have a brain AVM until you experience symptoms, such as headaches or a seizure. In serious cases, the blood vessels rupture, causing bleeding in the brain (hemorrhage).
With greater focus being placed on brain injuries/trauma by the NFL, it is likely that some will make a connection that the AVM was triggered, if not created, by the constant physical nature of the game. Offensive and defensive lineman generally endure some contact with and around the head on every play in a typical game. There is no specific indication as to what triggers the symptoms of an AVM, but it should be noted the tangle of blood vessels, often called a nidus (Latin for “nest”) has no capillaries and abnormally direct connections between high-pressure arteries and low-pressure veins. It can be extremely fragile and prone to bleeding.
Approximately 300,000 Americans have AVMs, or 0.097%. With less than 2000 active professional NFL players, the expectation is that there may be one additional player with an undiagnosed AVM (.00097*2000 = 1.94)
At present, there should be no specific connection between the AVM and the volatility of the game of football. Patterson may have suffered the AVM while walking his dog where minimal immediate help would have been available. It is difficult to say Patterson is lucky considering his continuing career may be in jeopardy, but Patterson is lucky.