Being aware of the benefits of playing sports and being fit is a strong motivation for you to adapt that lifestyle. It’s now just a matter of how and where to start and staying motivated. This is a concern I find many hemophiliacs—as well as their caregivers—struggle with. The multitude of options can easily confuse them—possibly leading them to making rash decisions. Adopting a devil may cry attitude, on the other hand can get you seriously injured or take you on a trip to the emergency room. So be smart in selecting what’s best for you.
What Sports are Appropriate?
The absolute best sport for hemophiliacs is swimming. The water cushions you, protecting your body from impact and trauma. It also serves as a source of resistance that can help develop your muscles. I myself am a swimmer and I can go on and on about how swimming has improved my lifestyle. Though a pool isn’t exactly easy to access, so I have other alternatives like badminton and Tai Chi—which are great options for hemophiliacs. Resistance training or weightlifting also helps me stay strong, but I try my best to be careful whenever I go through my daily regimen.
In some activities, you need to be more careful to avoid injury. Some examples of these are basketball, running, weightlifting and track and field—all of which are can be pretty hard on your joints. Then there are some sports that are absolutely taboo for hemophiliacs. These include sports such as boxing, American and rugby football, wrestling and outdoor rock climbing. These are all high impact sports that can easily cause severe injury, especially for hemophiliacs.
Where do I start?
Below is a list of sports you can refer to so you can get an idea of what is and isn’t okay for your bleeding condition. Each section is divided based on their level of risk so it’s easy for you to gauge the activity you like based on your risk tolerance and each section. And I’ve laid out a simple gameplan for you as well to follow to help you decide what to choose and how to pursue it. So let’s get started!
Track and Field
Assess your current level of fitness and select an activity based on that. Be aware of your body. Take notice of any weak areas that you may have and avoid activities that exert too much pressure on them. Also, if you believe that you still lack the strength or stamina to pursue a certain activity—don’t yet. Over time as you develop your strength, more options will become open for you. For now, listen to your body and choose something that won’t over-exert it.
Seek out your doctor’s advice before engaging. It’s important that you seek out the guidance of your doctor. They’ll be able to help you list that the different things you need to keep in mind so you can be more educated about the pros and cons of each activity you’d like to pursue. They’ll also be able to give you a more objective medical assessment of your physical condition.
Ask help from experts and do research. Seek out best practices and ask for advice from people with more experience. These can be coaches or people whom you know are adept in their field of play. This knowledge can help you perform better and more safely.
Get the appropriate gear. Aside from the obvious gear you need for a sport—like rackets for badminton–as hemophiliacs, we also need to arm ourselves with additional protection. Supports and pads are essential in sports such as basketball, volleyball and even badminton. In my case, I usually wear ankle pads since I also suffer from chronic synovitis on my right ankle. So I use them as a precaution to injury.
Listen to your body. When you believe you’ve had enough, stop. It’s okay to take a breather and come back at a later time. Over-exerting yourself sets you out for possible injury. If that happens, you’ll need to recover for an extended period of time to mend your injury—which often means you’ll be stuck in bed all day. Thus, opening you up to the possibility of muscular atrophy.
Aim for consistency. Be mindful and do be careful when you play sports. Consistency is key to gaining a better body, resulting in a better quality of life. Having a regular training regimen or being able to at least take a walk every day are simple ways to remain consistent to keep your fitness up. This will lead to gradual steps in achieving the level of fitness you want.
Optional, but highly recommended: Play with a friend. It’s great to be able to share an activity with a companion. Enjoying or spending time actively doing something with a friend can help you cope with feelings of isolation and boost levels of oxytocin—a happy hormone that helps us feel satisfied and appreciated. And in case you get into an accident, someone can be there to help you.
Hopefully this can help you make intelligent decisions and aid you in taking more calculated risks. Remember that it’s always best to work with, not against your disability. Your disability is a part of you and it needs love and attention so you can happily co-exist. It’s through acceptance that we’re able to grow and become more empowered PWDs.