Brumbies lose Vaea to blood clots

2013-02-16 00:00

SYDNEY — A potential life-threatening condition has put Ita Vaea’s career on hold on the eve of the Super Rugby season as the Tongan powerhouse recovers from blood clots on his heart.

A shattered Vaea has been ruled out of the entire Brumbies’ season before a game has been played and he is using blood-thinning medication. A clot formed on Vaea’s heart last year and bits started to break off and were found in his kidneys and calf at pre-season training.

It’s a blow for the powerful 24-year-old, who was starting to establish himself as one of the hardest hitters and most devastating runners in the competition.

But coach Jake White said the “Brumbies family” would rally around Vaea while he was unable to train to help get him back to full health.

A clot was first found in Vaea’s calf in October and he was immediately sent for more tests when his foot turned white at training. At some point Vaea had a mini heart attack, which compromised the heart muscle. It affected his circulation and bits of the clot were pumped around his body.

Ironically, the pain in his calf saved his life, as doctors discovered a significant problem.

Vaea will have another test in six months to see if his condition has improved and a decision will be made then on whether he will be allowed to return to training.

The blood-thinning medication makes it too dangerous for Vaea to play or train due to the risk of internal bleeding. Had he continued to play with the clot undetected, it could have caused a stroke or cardiac arrest.

“He’s part of the Brumbies family, it’s just the tradition of the Brumbies, and we want to give him everything we can,” White told the Canberra Times. He said was really proud of their medical staff: “They’ve got in on this early and they’ve looked after him and that’s a positive thing for the players here; they know they will be looked after’.

The Brumbies begin their campaign when they take on the Reds at Canberra Stadium tonight.

They are trying to make the finals for the first time since 2004 and no decision has been made on who will fill Vaea’s roster spot. Captain Ben Mowen will pack down at the back of the scrum with Fotu Auelua adding punch from the bench. — Sport24.

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