Jul 28, 2014 1:00 AM

Author: Libby Mitchell

They almost don’t look like human legs.

A photo posted on Facebook by Polish cyclist Bartosz Huzarski following stage 18 of the Tour de France shows every vein straining against the skin. Understandably fans were intrigued, and concerned. Close to 400 people commented, some asking if Huzarski was putting too much strain on his vascular system, and if he was being treated by a medical professional.

He responded to their concerns saying he did “not expect that picture of (his) feet will trigger such a fuss.” He went on to say that while some may see the picture of proof of doping, or ill health, it is actually just what happens when a person rides a bike for a long time in high temperatures.

Or is it?

“The veins are probably protruding because of the amount of blood flow that flows into a professional cyclist’s legs and then has to flow out again,” says Larry Kraiss, MD, a vascular surgeon with University of Utah Health. “This would cause the blood vessels to enlarge.” But while there is an explanation for the appearance of the veins, there are other questions to be answered about what is going on below the skin.

“Whether or not it is unhealthy would depend on whether the valves in the veins are working properly,” says Kraiss, “If the valves allow reflux or backward flow of blood in the veins, it is not normal but also not dangerous as long as the problem is confined to the superficial veins and not the deeper bigger veins in the legs.”

Huzarski is still riding following the photo, so it would appear the deeper veins, and his overall vascular system, are in good working order. And while Huzaski says he knows the appearance of his legs aren’t like those of the “Victoria’s Secret models,” Kraiss says the picture is still “pretty impressive.”

Libby Mitchell

Libby Mitchell is the Social Media Coordinator for University of Utah Health Care. Follow her on Twitter @UUHCLibby.

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