January 27, 2022

Hemophilia doesn’t keep Ascher Rundell off the field

Gridiron tough

Katie Keyser/Living and Leisure Editor

Rundell, right, and an unidentified boy at Small Fry Football practice at Suggett Park in Cortland.

Ascher Rundell described a typical after school routine:

“Come home from school … play on my phone for a couple of minutes. … Get my medicine and put my pants on.”

The sixth grader, an 11-year-old, plays center and guard for the Cortland Purple Tigers small fry football division. But Ascher has to take a few extra steps before going on the field.

The Cortland boy has hemophilia, a blood disorder that people usually are born with. People with hemophilia do not have enough clotting factor in their blood, according to the World Federation of Hemophilia of Montreal. Though they do not bleed faster than normal, they can bleed for a longer time.

Ascher Rundell injects himself with a clotting solution. He has done this the last three years.

Playing football

Ascher takes the doses typically two or three times a week, said his dad, Adam Rundell of Cortland. But in football season?

“I do it every time I play football,” the Randall Middle School student said.

If he’s got the medicine in his system, he is good to go, according to his parents.

It’s a matter of practice, said Ascher’s mom, Esther Cobb, circulation clerk at the Cortland Standard. “If he needs help, he’ll say, ‘Ma, come help me.’ … I know what I’m doing. So does his dad.”

“Ascher lives with his dad. But I am at every practice and every game,” Cobb said.

Cobb does worry about her boy. “See my gray hair?” she said. “I worry all the time.”

But Ascher has been playing small fry football for three years now.

“To him, it’s not a big deal,” Cobb said.

Katie Keyser/Living and Leisure Editor

Ascher Rundell, 11, of Cortland.

“It’s going,” Cobb said on Oct. 1. “So far, they have played three games and his team has won all three games.”

They only had one scare this year.

“The first game, Ascher pinched his fingers in between two helmets. He did not
bleed, but his fingers swelled up. He had his medicine before the game, so it prolonged it,” Cobb said. “He had an instant ice pack, an extra dose of medicine and then went to Convenient Care. So far, it’s the only time he has had to do that.”

“We don’t treat him differently than the other players,” said Peter Veintimilla, small fry coach. “We know the protocol is different if there is an issue. The parents gave us a lot of information before practice.”

“The mom, I have known for years and years,” Veintimilla said. Both parents are very accessible.

Cobb said the coaches told her if she or Ascher’s dad were at practice or a game, it would be OK for their son to participate.

But Veintimilla, a coach for seven years, said that wasn’t necessary. He can easily get a hold of them, and Ascher is vocal about his needs.

“He’s a good kid,” said Joey Marks of Cortland, a small fry coach for 11 years. Cobb told the coaches the protocol, like how to react to an injury — not to wrap up the area too tightly, not to apply pressure — because hemophiliacs react differently then clotters, Veintimilla said.
The coaches also communicate to other staff and emergency medical staff on hand on game days about Ascher having the blood disorder.

“We try to treat him like a normal kid,” said Sean Smith of Cortland, a coach for nine years.
Ascher’s job is to hike the ball. “They come at you fast,” he said.

He also guards the people on his team, pointed out his dad, a self-employed amusement ride technician.

Katie Keyser/Living and Leisure Editor

Ascher Rundell, left, and small fry coach Joey Marks make an adjustment to Ascher’s helmet.

Ascher said his favorite play is the quarterback fake in the round, a fake play to gain leverage on the field. “It’s usually the only thing that gets us the most yards,” said the boy.

He doesn’t think: protect this body part or do this to avoid an injury on the field. He doesn’t think anything about hemophilia.

“I just do my job,” he said. “I just do what I have to do.”

Cobb said Ascher knows his body.

“I don’t have to worry about him as much as people think. He knows his limits,” Cobb said. “If he gets injured, he calls himself out of the game.”

Since that hand pinching injury, he still tapes his fingers together, though the hand has healed.

Adam Rundell said bruising means a sub-dermal bleed and that has to be managed for a hemophiliac.

“For clotters, that goes away faster than this bleeder,” he said.

Hemophilia and exercise

The World Federation of Hemophilia says some with hemophilia avoid exercise because they think it may cause bleeds, but exercise can actually help prevent them. Strong muscles help protect someone who has hemophilia from spontaneous bleeds and joint damage.

“Sports are an important activity for young people … But some are riskier than others … Benefits must be weighed against the risks,” the federation says.

Sports like swimming, badminton, cycling and walking are safe for most people with hemophilia.

American football, rugby and boxing are usually not recommended.

Adam Rundell says to people who question his son playing a contact sport: “He’s not different from any other kid. He just needs medicine. … He’s a boy who happens to have hemophilia. Hemophilia does not hold him back.”

Katie Keyser/Living and Leisure Editor

Rundell, right, doesn’t even think about being a hemophiliac on the football field.

Cheri Wakeham, a social worker and facilitator of a family support group with the Bleeding Disorders Association of the Southern Tier, said many people with hemophilia participate in a variety of physical activities. Each person with hemophilia is different. The group recommends discussing options with the individual’s hematologist. The decision should lay with the patient, family and physician, she said.

Ascher’s family has the approval of his hemophilia doctor, Cobb said.

“As long as he does his factor before each practice and before each game, he can play. One severe injury, he’s done,” Cobb said.

BDAST has a quarterly support group. It’s next session is in January, Wakeham said. People interested can contact her at cheri@bsdast.org.

Ascher, who connects once a year with Golisano Children’s Hospital for care, must wear a helmet anytime he is on a bike, skateboard or scooter. At football, he has helmet, rib, shoulder, thigh, chest and other pads.

Like all the kids, he goes through training to learn to protect the head from injury.

Ascher’s goal for small fry: “Go undefeated. If everybody else, including me, blocks … we will be able to make more touchdowns.”

The team had a 3-0 record as of Oct. 1. But they have to get through the end of October.

Hemophilia has taught Ascher: “I’m different.”

But when he’s on the playing field, he doesn’t feel that way.

“I feel the same on the field,” he said.