By Melissa Locker
June 01, 2016
Credit: Jason Hetherington

A passenger on a recent Air Canada flight claims his airplane seat almost killed him.

Colin Savage flew 10 hours from Chile to Toronto, and soon after his arrival, he started to experience sharp pains in his lower back, as reported by CBC News. He went to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis (DVT), possibly as a result of having to sit for the majority of the long flight due to turbulence.

Savage is 6’2”, and says that being forced to sit for so long was a challenge. "In their seats, my knees were up against the seat in front of me. I was constantly squirming around trying to get comfortable," he told CBC. The cramped seating and lack of leg room on the plane may have been a factor in the DVT diagnosis. Doctors told him that blood clots had traveled up his legs and into his lungs and nearly killed him.

Before his diagnosis, Savage was a marathon runner, cyclist, and hiker—evidence that a healthy lifestyle does not insulate you from DVT, which is the third most common vascular disease next to stroke and heart attack. The World Health Organization and CDC both say that anyone who travels in a cramped space for more than four hours is at risk of developing DVT. (There are some remedies being developed.)

While travel can wreak havoc on your health, “there is no conclusive medical evidence specifically linking deep vein thrombosis with flying,” said Air Canada. The airline provided CBC with a statement: "The WHO have advised there is no risk with air travel for healthy passengers, and that long periods of immobility in trains, buses, or cars carry similar risk." There is evidence that air travel can increase the risk of blood clots, and if you’ve had recent surgeries or previous blood clots, it’s worth talking to your doctor about flying.