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Is sport good for teenagers with haemophilia?

“Yes!…. BUT … ” – there’s the typical answer from your parents or your Haemophilia Treatment Centre (HTC) team.

So what’s the big deal – why are there so many IFs, BUTs and MAYBEs? It’s one of the great debates for young people with haemophilia, so let’s look at the issues…

Firstly – a teenager is growing in all directions. Some are growing faster, sooner and bigger than others – so if you bang into someone big (even if they’re the same age or size as you) … Guess who’ll come off worse. Consider the BANG (ouch) factor.

Secondly – looking after bones and joints during childhood is important because they have to carry you around for the rest of your life! You only get one set of bones. So – if you look after them and don’t treat them too hard and don’t get too many bleeds………..you should be able to do most things that you would like to do.

So you can see why your parents and the HTC team are cautious!

The positives for sport:

  • Your heart and lungs are fitter
  • You feel better because “wellbeing” hormones (known as endorphins ) are circulated
  • Your flexibility improves, your muscles and bones are stronger and your joints are healthier
  • You can improve your balance and co-ordination
  • It helps you keep a healthy weight
  • Competition and success can make you feel great
  • It’s fun and you make friends
  • AND when you play sport your factor VIII or IX levels can naturally increase so you might not have as many bleeds (if you have mild to moderate haemophilia)!

The negatives for sport: When things go wrong with sport, you get

  • Injuries and bleeds… and PAIN
  • Time off school, time off sport
  • Letting the team down
  • More frustration and disappointment
  • Left out of “stuff”…. Again

So do yourself a favour and …

  • Get a general fitness and musculo-skeletal assessment and a planned program from the physiotherapist at the HTC near you (Olympic athletes and high level sports people do it, so why not you?). If there isn’t a physio at your HTC, talk to your haemophilia doctor or nurse about the next steps
  • Learn about the risks and how to manage them, so you can avoid injuries and bleeds (your physio and haemophilia nurse can help)
  • Look after your bones. Weight bearing exercises are good for strong healthy bone development. However, care must be taken for soft tissue development as overuse type injuries may develop from too much intensity of an exercise. Weight training needs to be proportional to your size
  • Find a sport you enjoy, but beware of sports where you are really likely to be injured. Concussion is a very bad idea for someone with haemophilia
  • Keep in mind that as teams become older sometimes sports which were no problem in the past can become rougher and more injury prone
  • Resist the temptation to go all out when you first start – that’s a sure way for anyone to get hurt
  • Then get out there and enjoy yourself!

Australian and New Zealand Physiotherapy Haemophilia Group:
Original answer (2012): Auburn McIntyre, Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Adelaide; Emma Paterson, Royal Brisbane & Women’s Hospital; Wendy Poulsen, Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital, Brisbane
Reviewed (2022): Cameron Cramey, Royal Adelaide Hospital; Elise Mosey, Queensland Children’s Hospital

Answered by: Physio

Date last reviewed: 19 January 2022

Important Note: This information was developed by Haemophilia Foundation Australia for education and information purposes only and does not replace advice from a treating health professional. Always see your health care provider for assessment and advice about your individual health before taking action or relying on published information. This information may be printed or photocopied for educational purposes.

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