Doctors remove Clark's spleen
Share with others:
Steelers safety Ryan Clark is recovering in a local hospital after having his spleen removed.
Clark's 2007 season ended when the Steelers placed him on injured reserve this week, but doctors gave him some good news: He likely can play football again.
Initially, it looked as if Clark might only miss a week or two of the season, but he had shown little improvement since he was found to have an inflamed spleen after an Oct. 21 game in Denver.
"At first, you didn't think anything about it, thought he'd be messed up for a week or two," linebacker Larry Foote said. "Then, he started losing a lot of weight and wasn't coming back.
"You started getting worried because Ryan is an upbeat person and, when he wasn't upbeat ... that's terrible because he's such a presence on this team, and we're having a good season.
"But he'll be around and he'll come on strong next year."
Clark, 28, was admitted to a Denver hospital after the game, and doctors told him the problem with his spleen develop from complications of exerting himself in the high altitude as it related to the sickle cell trait.
"It's a blood condition I have that I have to stay on top of, as far as going to high altitude and things like that," Clark said three days after the game in Denver. "Dealing with the weather, overexertion, dehydration -- I just need to be smarter."
Clark said he had similar problems when he played for the Washington Redskins in Denver two years ago, but that it was diagnosed differently.
Clark was taking pain medication because he said his shoulder and side hurt from the inflammation of his spleen. He said the sickle cell trait runs in his family and that his father, brother and youngest daughter also have it.
According to the Illinois Department of Health: "Sickle cell trait is a condition in which there is one gene for the formation of sickle hemoglobin and one for the formation of normal hemoglobin. Sickle cell trait occurs in one out of every 10 African-Americans. Usually, people with sickle cell trait do not have any medical problems, and they can lead normal lives. They do not develop sickle cell disease."
Second-year pro Anthony Smith has started in place of Clark at free safety the past three games and will become the permanent starter.
As long as there are no more complications, Clark should return to play next season. He signed with the Steelers from the Redskins as an unrestricted free agent in 2006 after starting free safety Chris Hope went to Tennessee as a free agent.
First Published November 16, 2007 12:00 am