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Archive for Sunday, March 25, 2001

Olajuwon cleared to play

Rockets’ center could return Tuesday

March 25, 2001

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— Hakeem Olajuwon, sidelined by a blood clot in his lower left leg, has been cleared to work out this week with the Houston Rockets and possibly even play as soon as Tuesday.

Just more than a week ago, the Rockets center's season and possibly his career seemed to be over, with the condition requiring medication that would keep him off the court for 3-to-6 months.

However, additional tests and a re-evaluation by team physician Dr. James Muntz showed dramatic improvement in Olajuwon's condition.

"I'm very happy. I thank God for the opportunity," Olajuwon said. "I'm looking forward to joining the team."

When Olajuwon's condition was first diagnosed, doctors treated it with coumadin, a blood thinner. The medication was going to effectively end his season because it would have left his body at risk for a more serious internal injury if he had hard contact on the court.

But Olajuwon said he only took coumadin for a short time and instead began receiving daily injections of heparin, a low molecular weight blood thinner. Additional blood tests and imaging studies, as well as a second opinion by famed cardiologist Dr. Denton Cooley have shown that Olajuwon's blood vessels in his left leg are now open.

Olajuwon will wear elastic support stockings on his left leg while playing, take aspirin daily and be monitored by team doctors for the rest of the season.

"There's no risk. If there was a risk, I'd take no risk. There is blood flow. It's not life threatening," Olajuwon said.

The initial course of treatment with coumadin was "the most conservative approach. The reality was different. That's the good news," Olajuwon said.

Rockets general manager Carroll Dawson said the team will follow whatever recommendations the physicians make.

"We'll see how it goes. There's a great possibility he'll be playing this week," Dawson said. "It couldn't happen at a better time for the team."

Olajuwon, 38, is in the final year of his contract, that pays him $16.5 million this year. Despite his medical condition, he has not ruled out returning to the Rockets for a 17th season.

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