It is estimated that roughly six million children in the U.S. have attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, commonly known as ADHD.
And while the impact it can have on students in the classroom is often the focus of studies, less is known about how the disorder affects young athletes.
Researchers at the Wexner Medical Center recently performed a study and found that athletes with ADHD have increased impulsivity which can put them at a higher risk for injury, especially in contact sports.
“It’s a topic that doesn’t get much attention, so we wanted to begin to understand the role this very common condition might play in our student-athletes,” Dr. James Borchers, director of the division of sports medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, said in a University release. “What we found was somewhat surprising.”
The researchers analyzed more than 850 athletes in a variety of sports over a five-year span at Ohio State, finding that just over 5.5 percent of athletes were diagnosed and treated for ADHD, roughly the same percentage found in the general public.
According to the study, researchers charted injuries in these athletes as well. And while they insist there is no direct correlation between ADHD and certain types of injuries, they do know that with the disorder may come an increased risk.
“We know in young people with ADHD that they do have an increase in impulsivity and a little bit more reckless behavior,” Dr. Trevor Kitchin, who took part in the study, told the school. “We’re not saying that ADHD led to injury, but given its known characteristics, it may be putting these athletes at higher risk, especially in contact sports.”
Also, researchers found that he rate of participation in contact sports like football, hockey and lacrosse for athletes with ADHD was 142 percent more than in non-contact sports. Athletes with ADHD were twice as likely to compete in team sports.
“What was surprising was the type of sports they played,” Borchers tells the school. “We expected a lot of athletes with ADHD to gravitate toward individual sports, where they have more control, there is a little bit more repetitiveness and they don’t have to worry about the responsibilities or roles of teammates or opponents. We expected to see more athletes with ADHD in sports like golf or tennis.”
You can read the rest of the findings here.