Study: Athletes with ADHD likely to choose team sports, have higher risk of injury

Research has shown participating in sports may help mitigate symptoms of ADHD in children and teens.
By Amy Wallace  |  May 11, 2017 at 1:16 PM
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May 11 (UPI) -- A study shows athletes with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, are more likely to compete in team sports, which also increases risk of injury.

ADHD affects more than 6 million children in the United States, according to researchers.

Researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center analyzed more than 850 athletes who competed in a variety of sports over a five-year period and found students with ADHD were more likely to compete in team sports compared to individual sports such as track.

"We expected athletes with ADHD to gravitate toward individual sports, like golf or tennis, 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," Dr. James Borchers, director of the Division of Sports Medicine at Ohio State, said in a press release. "But what we found was our athletes with ADHD were twice as likely to compete in team sports, and their rate of participation in contact sports, like football, hockey and lacrosse, was 142 percent higher."

By choosing to participate in more contact, team sports, students with ADHD were at an increased risk of injury, according to the study.

"We know in young people with ADHD that they do have an increase in impulsivity and a little bit more reckless behavior," said Dr. Trevor Kitchin, primary care sports medicine fellow at Ohio State. "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."

The study also found that 5.5 percent of athletes were diagnosed and treated for ADHD, roughly the same percentage as the general population.

Researchers documented injuries in the athletes and found no direct correlation between ADHD and certain types of sports injuries.

Studies have shown that participating in sports can help mitigate symptoms of ADHD in children and the benefits of trying and participating in sports outweigh any potential risks.

The study was presented at the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine Annual Meeting.

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