As a small child, professional road racing cyclist Alex Dowsett began developing mysterious bruises on his body. It turns out he had hemophilia, which means his blood can’t clot correctly. Hemophilia leads to spontaneous bleeding, and this often happens internally.
While limiting for some, having hemophilia inspired Dowsett, 32, to chase after his dreams.
“I insist that hemophilia is the reason I’m the athlete I am now,” said Dowsett, who successfully manages the condition through routine IV treatment every other day.
The United Kingdom native explained that he had taken up swimming at a young age due to its low-impact nature. Then, up to age 11, he played soccer until it became too physical, making it too risky for his health.
“There’s nothing like telling a young boy everything he can’t do to make him go out there and rebel, or go out and show the world what you can do,” said Dowsett, adding that his parents supported him in finding the perfect sport for him.
At age 13, he got into road biking, another low-impact sport, and the rest is history.
Now, Dowsett is sharing his story in hopes of raising awareness of hemophilia, how to manage the disorder, and inequality surrounding care. He also began a charity called Little Bleeders to support young people with blood disorders to “move more, be more.”
Dowsett knows firsthand the power of exercise in managing his condition. He realizes many parents may worry about enrolling their children in sports, but noted that hemophiliacs who are active fare better than those who are not. Plus, with the right medication, the disorder can be managed.
“I never grew up wanting to be a professional cyclist,” Dowsett said. “This is just something that happened because my parents were like, ‘You can’t do that, but let’s try this.’”
While being active with hemophilia requires a little creativity and extra precautions, he added, “There are a ton of things we can do.”