ADHD Athletes Gravitate to Contact Sports

Andy Peloquin

Personal Training



Attention-Deficiency/Hyperactivity Disorder, also known as ADHD, is surprisingly common: the CDC estimates that 11% (6.4 million) of American children four to 17 years old are diagnosed with ADHD, a percentage that has risen from 7.8% in 2003. Learning to manage and cope with this disorder is vital for parents, teachers, and caregivers alike.



One new study out of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center found that ADHD children are more likely to enroll in contact sports than individual sports, ultimately leading to a higher risk of injury.


The study followed more than 850 athletes competing in various sports for five years.


According to Dr. James Borchers, director of the Division of Sports Medicine at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, “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. 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.”


The researchers monitored the athletes' performance, charting their injuries over the five-year study period. As expected, contact sports led to a higher risk of injury.


Now, the study made one thing very clear: "There is no direct correlation between ADHD and certain types of injuries." Just because an athlete has ADHD, that doesn't mean they are more likely to sustain injuries during physical activity.


However, as the above data indicated, ADHD children are 142% more likely to gravitate towards contact sports than individual sports (with less risk of injury). This inclination exposes them to a higher risk of injury, which is why the rate of injuries among ADHD athletes was visibly higher.


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


Sports have proven effective at mitigating the effects of ADHD in children, which is why parents are encouraged to let their children participate in whatever sport interests them. This study isn't intended to make parents worry about their children getting injured. Instead, it's simply providing data so parents can make an informed decision about their children's athletic activities, and give parents, coaches, and athletic trainers an understanding of what needs to be done to help and protect athletes with ADHD.

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