Local Researchers Document How ADHD Affects Kids Playing Sports

May 16, 2017


More than six million children in the United States are estimated to have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD.

While numerous studies have documented the impact ADHD has on students in the classroom, there's less known about how the condition affects them in sports. Mike Foley reports on a recent study by researchers at Ohio State University.

Athletes with ADHD are twice as likely to compete in team sports and have a significantly higher rate of participation in contact sports such as football, hockey, and lacrosse. That’s according to a study led by Dr. James Borchers, who directs the division of sports medicine at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center.

“The result was a little bit surprising. We expect a lot of athletes with ADHD to gravitate towards an individual sport where they have a little more control, there’s a little bit more repetitiveness, they don’t need to be able to pay attention to their teammates, and those sorts of things.”

Researchers analyzed nearly 900 Ohio State athletes over a five-year period. They found that slightly more than five and a half percent were diagnosed and treated for ADHD, about the same percentage found in the general public. The study also charted injuries in these athletes. Although there’s no direct correlation between ADHD and certain types of injuries, researchers caution there may be an increased risk of injury given that young people with the condition can behave impulsively or recklessly at times.

“If we do have more student athletes than we expected that are in contact/team sports, we need to understand the challenges those athletes may have with ADHD, and how we can better help to support them so they’re successful in that sport.”

Research has shown that participating in youth sports can help mitigate symptoms of ADHD. Doctors encourage parents to let kids try any sport they’re interested in, as the benefits outweigh any issues that may arise because they have ADHD.