When Stefan Elvenes retired from ice hockey after playing at the highest level for 22 years in Sweden and Denmark, he didn’t expect that his biggest battle was still ahead of him. A few months after Stefan stopped playing, he got a blood clot in the deep vein of his left leg.
Stefan’s dad was also an elite ice hockey player, so for Stefan and his brothers Roger and Tord, putting skates on their feet came as natural as wearing shoes. Later, the three of them played together on the Swedish Hockey League team Rögle BK, with Stefan as the top scorer.
“After scoring hundreds of goals I didn’t expect that I still had my life’s toughest game ahead of me.”
After this successful career, Stefan was enjoying his first summer in retirement together with his family when he noticed a swelling at the back of his left leg.
“When the doctor told me it was a blood clot, I couldn’t believe it. I was only 37 and still very fit. I wasn’t supposed to get something like that,” Stefan says.
After being told that younger people and even top athletes also can get blood clots, Stefan was treated successfully with blood thinners. However, three weeks after he stopped taking his medicine, he got a really bad panic attack.
“Dealing with the blood clot was tough, but the panic attack was the worst. My arms and my legs became numb. I thought I was going to die.”
“In the back of my mind, stopping my medication translated into a risk of getting another blood clot. That probably triggered my panic attacks,” Stefan says. “I was a mental wreck for a long time. But regular therapy at a psychologist helped me snap out of the fears. Today, I have made peace with it.”
Today, Stefan is 51 years old and works as a full-time scout for the American NHL team St Louis Blues. The task of finding young hockey talents brings him to hockey arenas all over Europe, meaning a lot of time on the road and less than optimal conditions for exercising.
“Even with my irregular work and a bad back, I try to stay fit. Sometimes I use the memory of how bad my experience was for empowering me to get to the gym,” Stefan says.
“When I don’t stay in shape, I feel like an old man. When I am fit, I feel like I’m 30 again. It’s an easy choice.”
“Movement for me is really important. Exercising keeps the blood running, so I try to avoid getting another blood clot by working out every day.”