How to Keep Summer Activities Safe for Kids with Bleeding Disorders

Learn why a popular piece of backyard play equipment is riskier than you might think.

It’s summertime, and kids are out of school and excited to have fun in the great outdoors. After a year of remote learning, social isolation and so much uncertainty, probably more than ever!

But if you’re the parent of a child with hemophilia or another bleeding disorder, your eagerness for your child to get outside and be active is tempered by the concern that the sport he is playing or another activity he’s doing might put him at risk for a serious injury.

What can you do to help make this summer an enjoyable and active one for your child while also keeping him or her safe from injuries?

For advice about hemophilia and sports, we turned to Alice Anderson, PT, DPT, PCS, a co-author of the National Hemophilia Foundation’s (NHF’s) Playing It Safe: Bleeding Disorders, Sports and Exercise guide. Learn what she recommends.

Check with Your HTC

A good first step is to talk to your child’s hemophilia treatment center (HTC), Anderson says. “You can find out if they recommend that your child be on prophylaxis, and if your child has a problem joint, you can determine if there are specific sports that would be safer for them than others,” she says.

You can also talk about any measures you can take to make the sport or activity safer. “Clearly, it’s a no-brainer that everybody should use the appropriate safety gear for each sport,” she adds.

Steer Clear of Activities with a 3 Rating

In the Playing It Safe guide, sports that are rated 3 for “high risk” include BMX racing, boxing, tackle football, rugby and wrestling.

“These are sports that can be dangerous for anyone, regardless of whether they have a bleeding disorder, because they are considered high velocity and/or at high risk for collision,” Anderson says. “The most important thing we want to prevent is a blow to the head, which at the very least can cause a concussion and at the very worst, a head bleed.”

Be Cautious with Trampolines

Sales of backyard trampolines jumped last summer as families looked for ways to keep their kids occupied at home during the pandemic.

But the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly discourages the use of home trampolines for any child, citing the high rate of injuries that can occur, including fractures and dislocations. In the Playing It Safe guide, trampoline use has a 2.5 to 3 rating.

“If you choose to allow your child to be on a trampoline, the things that are going to make it safer are ensuring there’s adult supervision and no flips or somersaults and, most importantly, having only one child jump at a time,” Anderson says. “You want to avoid the risk of two heads hitting each other really hard.”

Don’t Overlook Neighborhood Pickup Games

While tackle football is a definite high-risk sport, what about a friendly neighborhood game of touch football?

Anderson says these kinds of impromptu pickup games can often be a lot riskier than you realize, because there’s usually little to no adult supervision. “With league play or a game at the Y, you’re going to have refs that are watching, but if it’s just a bunch of kids playing up the street, it’s possible that a player could go rogue and do something really dangerous,” she says.

Keep Your Child’s Interests in Mind

Don’t make the mistake of limiting your child’s activities to only those rated 1 for “low risk,” Anderson says. It’s important to allow kids to have a say in the sports or activities they’re interested in.

Some activities are actually less risky for kids with bleeding disorders than parents might think. Take rock climbing, for instance. While outdoor rock climbing gets a 2 to 3 rating in the Playing It Safe guide, indoor rock climbing, with proper safety equipment such as ropes and harnesses, is 1.5 to 2.

“Back in the day before we had such good treatment, every kid was encouraged to swim because it’s not a high-impact sport, but what if your kid doesn’t like swimming?” Anderson says. “Forcing your kid to do a level 1 sport they hate is not helpful, and they’re not going to get any fun out of it.”

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