A vascular surgeon answers the question of can lifting weights cause a blood clot (deep vein thrombosis).

Many bodybuilders and those who lift weights want to know if weightlifting can somehow cause a DVT.

Sometimes, it certainly must feel that way, as the athlete strains with heavy compound lifts, especially if the athlete sees their veins “popping” or “bulging” as they struggle with the load.

Another reason those who strength train or work out with weights may wonder about blood clots is because often, they strive to attain vascularity in their appearance, and this makes them think of veins.

All in all, muscle builders and other kinds of weight lifters will sometimes wonder about deep vein thrombosis, though they may not refer to it as that, and instead call it “blood clot.”

What the Doctor Says

“I suspect what this discussion is focused on is Paget-Schroetter syndrome or subclavian vein effort thrombosis,” says Kevin Casey, MD, FACS, a vascular surgeon with West Coast Vascular.

“This is an acute occlusion [blockage] of the axillo-subclavian vein [runs under the clavicle] and is classically found in an otherwise healthy young male who is an avid weightlifter.

“However, it can also be found in pitchers, volleyball players, tennis players, etc.”

What causes this?

Dr. Casey explains, “It is caused by compression of the vein by the musculoskeletal elements of the thoracic outlet.

“It accounts for approximately 1% of acute venous thromboses. 

“The treatment involves chemical thrombolysis [blood thinners] of the vein followed by removal of the ipsilateral first rib and scalene muscles.”

Dr. Casey specializes in vascular and vein therapy, and has been the lead researcher on publications examining abdominal aortic aneurysms, carotid artery disease and lower extremity critical limb ischemia.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.