Little Bleeders and our Little Bleeders spokespeople were recently interviewed for a feature in the Media Planet by the Guardian. The feature titled Haematologists promote ‘inclusion over exclusion’ for children discusses the importance of activity and sport in the lives of young people with haemophilia and that getting children involved in activity when they are young can help promote physical strength, self-esteem and inclusion with their peers.
There is often a stigma associated with haemophilia – that those who have it are fragile and are to be wrapped in cotton wool, however, as pointed out in the article, this does not have to be the case. With the many significant advancements in treatment, anyone with haemophilia can engage in a number of sports and activities. Dan Hart, Consultant Haematologist at The Royal London Hospital provides a great analogy in the feature about the importance of parents letting their children be more active despite their condition: “About four years ago, I was teaching my son to ride a bike. At some stage you have to remove the safety net, take your hands off the handlebars and let them go,” he said. “Would I be letting go so readily if my son had haemophilia? Perhaps not, but we have to help parents and children build up confidence in how positive physical activity can be.”
He further explains that for young people with haemophilia, the best sports to try when they are young are cycling and swimming. These sports tend to be the easiest to learn at a young age and are sports that can get them more involved with their friends and peers as long as safety precautions are routinely practiced i.e. wearing a bicycle helmet when cycling.
Alex Dowsett, Professional Cyclist and Chairman of Little Bleeders is highlighted as a prime example of how much of a positive impact sport can have on a young person’s life, particularly a young person with haemophilia. However, while Alex’s achievements may not be the achievements of all young people with haemophilia or without, simply being involved in activity can mean a big difference between exclusion and inclusion.
Dr Hart, recalls the Little Bleeders photography competition where we received so many examples of young people with haemophilia participating in a variety of sports like cricket, football and gymnastics to name a few, “There were these wonderful pictures of the children – who have haemophilia – doing gymnastics or playing cricket. Seeing them doing their favourite activity was incredibly powerful.”
Brian Colvin, former Director of the Haemophilia Centre at the Royal London Hospital adds that by participating in sport, young people with haemophilia are not only able to interact with their peers but there are also a number physical and mental health benefits, “If you have better control of the body’s moving parts, you’re more confident that you’re not going to have that accident that could lead to a bleed.”