Haemophilia: Improving Lifestyle with Exercise; by Tetyana Pravytska

In 1904, ten years later after her splendid wedding ceremony, Princess Alix of Hesse, Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, gave  birth to her much wanted son. Her happiness faded away very soon as her son, Alexei, was born with haemophilia. The days that followed did not heal her broken heart. She could not protect  her naturally active son from all minor injuries, which caused  long- lasting  bleeding and pain.

At that time, the only available treatment for haemophilia was a prolonged bed-rest  and aspirin , which,in turn, could worsen the disease. In the modern world,  parents who have a child with this medical condition have less uncertainty about its nature, cause and treatment. On the contrary to the past, they have taken the attitude that the child can enjoy sports as his friends do.    This became possible with the introduction of antihemophilic factor in the 1970s. This unique substance is ,basically, natural protein  that helps blood to clot.

The clinical use of antihemophilic factor has opened the door for researchers to look at  exercise as an additional option for the treatment of haemophilia.  It improves coordination and muscle strength.   In addition to these positive effects, exercise    reduces the risk of future bleeding that causes permanent  joint damage. This year, in the Official Journal of the World Federation of Haemophilia: Haemophilia, experts from 11 countries have published the results of their collaborative study on contributing factors to joint bleeding . They agreed that  exercise has a protective effect, and the advantages of doing sports and exercise overweights the disadvantages. So,  what is the safest physical activities for the child with haemophilia?

Before turning to expert’s recommendations on the kind of exercise to choose, give yourself time to think about very important things. Some of them  are the intensity of exercise, a recent bleed, the presence of joint’s deformity and  particularly painful activities. Kneeling, squatting rising from a chair, for example,  could be difficult and painful.   The presence of  target joint ( bleeding into one specific joint more than four times for the last 6 months)  and   the availability of clotting factor for prophylaxis   are the other factors to consider. All these  help  developing an individual plan for physical activities.

There are general recommendations,and they are based on the level of risk of having trauma.  All physical activities can be divided into three groups . The lowest risks carry non-team related sports such as  swimming. It also cause changes in the blood.  Recently, Brazilian  researchers have studied  the effect of  moderate aquatic exercise on clotting factors. They  found that it improves the clotting ability of the blood. Their positive conclusion is in an agreement with the similar previous studies conducted in the past. Clearly, swimming is a good choice for the child if he enjoys playing in the water. Other safe activities include walking, golf, hiking and fishing. Running, tennis  and skiing involve more risks. Unsurprisingly, the most dangerous ones are  boxing, rugby, competitive diving, power lifting and football.

The National Haemophilia Foundation provides more comprehensive overview on the safety of a specific kind of sport. It helps remove doubts when it comes to  choose  appropriate physical activity for the child. If you are still in doubt about the right choice of exercise,  the Haemophilia Comprehensive Care Centre will further advice you  on physical activities for the child.

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