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Why Chris Bosh's blood clot kept him out of the playoffs

Explaining the situation that’s keeping Miami Heat star Chris Bosh out of the playoffs.

The Miami Heat were an (extremely) dark horse candidate to win the Eastern Conference in 2015–16, with some having seen seen the Heat as the team best suited to challenge their old friend LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in a potential conference-final matchup.

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However, the Heat’s chances to even make the playoffs suffered a big blow mid-season, when the team’s best player Chris Bosh missed every game after Feb. 9 due to the reoccurrence of a blood clot. Bosh had played in every game for the Heat until the All-Star break, until he was mysteriously pulled from the All-Star Game with what was initially ruled a calf strain.

Quickly, it was determined Bosh was suffering from a blood clot, putting his season, if not his career, at risk. Rumors persisted that Bosh was pursuing a return, but ceased in early May when he and the team announced he would be out for the postseason. Here’s why we don’t know when we’ll see Chris Bosh back on the court.

Hold on, didn't this all happen before?

This is the second straight year Bosh has suffered from a blood clot. Last season, the issue wasn’t discovered until after the All-Star Game, when Bosh found himself feeling ill on vacation. The situation was immediately serious—Bosh’s blood clot had traveled from his calf to his lung, leading to his hospitalization. The day after last February’s trade deadline, Bosh was ruled out for the rest of the 2014–15 season. Over the summer, the Heat announced Bosh was expected to make a full recovery and return for the 2015–16 season.

Why wasn’t Bosh ruled out for the season immediately this year?

Bosh’s medical situation was a little different this season. It appears the clot was discovered sooner, before it traveled to Bosh’s lung, which could have put him at risk of suffering a pulmonary embolism. The Heat, out of respect to Bosh, did not make a single comment on Bosh until the announcement in May. The Heat listed Bosh on the injury report every night, but refused to give a reason why, even as the blood clot became public knowledge.

The reason for the team’s silence? Bosh appeared to truly believe he could come back. He released a statement in March saying he was “positive” he would be able to return and was no longer suffering from deep vein thrombosis. Interestingly, Bosh released the statement independent of the Heat, leading to speculation about a disagreement with the player and the franchise.

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Why couldn’t Bosh return if the clot wasn’t as serious?

It’s not that simple. The typical medication for blood clots is to take blood thinners, which can put users at the risk of heavy bleeding during physical contact. For an NBA player, this is obviously not ideal.

The Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson and Ethan Skolnick reported in April that Bosh sought multiple opinions on how to treat the clots. At the behest of several doctors, he opted for blood thinners even though his DVT had dissipated in March. According to the report, the Heat didn’t even consider letting Bosh play while taking blood thinners, because the risks are severe, and in some cases, could even be fatal.

Why wouldn't the Heat let Bosh play if he wanted to?

Bosh’s determination to play put him at odds with the organization, which seemed to be the more cautious party. The Heraldreported the team wouldn’t have let Bosh on the court even if he signed a medical waiver, and would instead wait until the team’s doctors gave Bosh full clearance. Bosh even tried getting the NBA Players Association involved, although that plan seemed futile from the start. How could the union force a coach to give someone playing time?

Why were the Heat being so cautious? Well, they certainly care about Bosh, and there are also liability issues in play. If Bosh were to suffer a career-ending injury or worse on the court, a waiver would probably not be enough to save the Heat from the fallout. It’s also interesting to note that Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was on the court as a player when Loyola Marymount forward Hank Gathers collapsed and died during a game, perhaps making the Heat even more sensitive to the Bosh situation.

Bosh, according to ESPN’s Dan Le Batard, found a doctor who was possibly comfortable letting him play. But the Heat found numerous others who believed it would be best to keep Bosh off the court. The Heat, ultimately, decided to fall on the side of the majority opinion.

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Will Chris Bosh play again?

There are a lot of conflicting reports. The Heraldreported in April that Bosh had “no plans to retire” and intends to play next season. In their joint announcement in May, the Heat and Bosh said they would work with doctors and the franchise’s medical team “to return Chris to playing basketball as soon as possible.”

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, citing multiple sources, reported in May that many within the Heat organization fear team doctors will never clear Bosh to play. However, Le Batard also reported in May—citing a Heat source—that the Heat expect Bosh to play next season.