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Deciding to Chase the Dream

It is important for individuals with a bleeding disorder to find a form of physical activity that they enjoy. When muscles are used during exercise it helps to  keep them flexible and strong.  Physical activity also helps individuals to maintain a healthy weight which keeps less stress off the joints, and has even proven to reduce the number of bleeds a person may experience.

It is important for individuals with hemophilia or von Willebrand Disease (vWD) to find the right form of activity for their type, severity, and body.  Individuals and families should always talk with their doctors or physical therapists to help determine what types of physical activity might be acceptable.  Most often, the type of physical activity depends on the severity of the hemophilia and treatment options available.


Hemophilia A and B Severity Types
Range
Normal factor levels 50% – 150%
Mild hemophilia 5% – 49%
Moderate hemophilia 1%-5%
Severe hemophilia Less than 1%

Again before beginning any new activity:

  • Talk to your provider
  • Ask questions
  • Do your research.

You may not always get the response you want to hear, but occasionally, the answer might surprise you. We received a story from one young man whose family understood the importance of being physically active. Andrew does not have a bleeding disorder, but his two brothers have mild hemophilia.  While we understand this story is the exception, not the rule, it does provide some thought to the idea that some challenges can be overcome.

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My brother Alex, who was a varsity linebacker in high school, was diagnosed with mild hemophilia at the end of his sophomore year and was told he could not play football ever again. Devastated by the news, he was determined to once more put on the pads. Sports have always been a big part of our family's life; our dad played college football and was a competitive kick boxer and our mom ran track. After receiving this diagnosis, a big question that our family had was, can hemophiliacs play sports?

Most doctors and people affiliated with this condition would say no, but that's based on lack of knowledge of the patient and their background. That answer is partially correct: most individuals with hemophilia are unable to play full contact sports, but should still do some type of physical activity. But, what if the hemophilia diagnosis is mild and the family is blessed with financial help and good medical insurance? Would they then be allowed to play with the proper treatment? Well, two people I know have proven that it can be possible.

After going to multiple hemophilia specialists, Alex received good news from one particular doctor who specializes in blood disorders. Alex was relieved to hear that he could play football with the help of infusions of factor IX multiple times per week.

Factor IX is a naturally occurring protein in the blood that is supposed to help the blood to clot. A lack of clotting factor can cause uncontrolled or prolonged bleeding. Alex’s infusions are given to temporarily raise the factor levels in his blood. Because infusions are needed regularly, Alex had to agree to be diligent with this routine.

Once Alex was diagnosed with hemophilia, our family decided that my other brother and I should get tested, too. While my tests came back negative, my brother Austin, who was a basketball player, was also diagnosed with mild Hemophilia. Even though there was a way for him and Alex to keep playing their sports, we were still concerned about potential life-threatening injuries, even while playing basketball, which is generally not considered a full contact sport.

My family was faced with a tough choice: either pay for the expensive, but quite necessary, medicine for my brothers so they could achieve their athletic goals, or force them to quit the sports they loved. While my family has the medical insurance to cover most of the treatment costs, there were still concerns about my brothers getting severely injured in practice or a game. My parents left it up to my brothers to decide whether they wanted to continue to play the sports they loved or to focus on academics.

Parish family picBoth Alex and Austin decided to keep playing. Austin chose to focus on his first love, basketball, and was an integral part of a two-time state championship team in 5A high school basketball. Alex has had a very successful sports career, going deep in the playoffs for football and winning a personal award for performance. Neither Alex nor Austin have regretted their decision to play, and I think that their decisions were the right ones for them.

Now, both Alex and Austin attend the University of Arkansas studying pre-med and business, respectively. Austin is a walk-on basketball player, and Alex is now a trainer for the Arkansas football team. Their athletic experiences have made them stronger individuals, both in their faith and perseverance.

When Austin and Alex were diagnosed, I could not help but feel guilty that I did not have hemophilia. The doctors said it was like flipping a coin; I had a 50/50 chance of having hemophilia. When I first started to play football in middle school, I played not just for me, I also played football in honor of my brothers.

Multiple athletes across the world have proven that it is safe and possible to play sports despite having a chronic condition.  My brothers are an example of this by not letting hemophilia stop them from chasing their dreams and living life to the fullest.

Andrew Parish attends High School in Texas, where he is the quarterback of the football team. He is from a very active and sports-minded family that includes his parents and siblings, Austin, Alex, and Alyssa. Andrew is very active in his church and his future plans include attending college where he hopes to play football and study business.

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**As with any new activity, or if you are having joint or bleeding problems, make sure you check with your physician or therapist to be sure you are ready to get started.

***While extensive efforts are made to ensure accuracy of the content of each FitFactor post, these entries are not intended to be construed as medical advice or the official opinion/position of HFA, its staff, or its Board of Directors. Readers are strongly encouraged to discuss their own medical treatment with their healthcare providers.

 

 

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