What a physical therapist wants you to know about your blood

For a person with a bleeding disorder, even a simple twisted ankle can pose special hazards.

As a physical therapist, I analyze movement on a daily basis.  To the dismay of my family and friends, I often pick out various biomechanical flaws in the people around me.

I’ll notice an individual cross an intersection, misjudge a curb, and twist an ankle.  Then I think about  whether the person knows how to properly treat that injury. 

As a movement specialist, such thoughts come with the territory.  But so does something else that may surprise you: blood disorders such as hemophilia.

Imagine playing basketball with friends, when you go up for a lay-up and get fouled with a smack to the nose.  It shouldn’t take long before it stops, right?  But what if the bleeding continues?

Unfortunately, some people have no idea that they have a bleeding disorder until this kind of trauma occurs. 

Von Willebrand Disease (VWD) is bleeding disorder that affects approximately 1% of the population. It is caused by a deficient or defective blood protein called von Willebrand factor (VWF).  When you don’t have enough VWF in the body, it takes you longer to stop bleeding, and this trait can reveal itself in easy bruising, frequent nose bleeds, heavy menstrual flow and excessive bleeding after a surgical procedure. VWD equally affects all ethnic and racial backgrounds as well as gender.  

Hemophilia is a genetic disorder that affects mostly males, affecting the blood’s ability to clot. A person with hemophilia has a deficiency in one of the factor proteins, which help the process of repairing after an injury.  The most common presentations are Factor VIII or Factor IX deficiencies.  A person with hemophilia won’t bleed harder or faster than someone without it, but they will take a longer time to form an effective or stable clot.  

If a person with hemophilia twists his ankle, even such a seemingly small  injury could lead to bleeding into their joints or muscles, with potentially serious harm.

March is Bleeding Disorders Awareness Month.  As a physical therapist who works closely with the bleeding disorder community via Thomas Jefferson University Hospital’s Hemophilia Treatment Center at the Cardeza Foundation for Hematologic Research, I encourage you to seek medical testing if you have ever experienced easy bruising, frequent nose bleeds that take a very long time to stop, or a heavy menstrual flow. If you have relatives that have VWD or hemophilia, connect them to one of the hemophilia treatment centers in their region so that they can receive the necessary testing and treatment.

 Finally, please join the National Hemophilia Foundation and others across the country and take the Red Tie Challenge!  Please visit the National Hemophilia Foundation’s website for more information.

Dr. Smith is an Advanced Clinician I at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital’s Center City Outpatient clinic JeffFit. He is a guest contributor on Sports Doc.       

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