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Team vs. solo sports for ADHD

If your child has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, you’ve probably heard that team sports are a great thing — children can improve social interactions, gain confidence and work on their self-esteem.

But a recent study out of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center reveals that athletes with ADHD could be at a greater risk of getting hurt. That’s because athletes with ADHD gravitate toward team contact sports as opposed to individual ones, the research reveals.

“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,” said Dr. James Borchers, director of the Division of Sports Medicine at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center.

“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.”

Researchers say that certain characteristics in people with ADHD may add to the risk.

“We know young people with ADHD do have an increase in impulsivity and a little bit more reckless behavior,” said Dr. Trevor Kitchin, primary care sports medicine fellow and researcher. “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 American Psychiatric Association estimates that 5 percent of children have ADHD.

So if your child has ADHD, should you stop him or her from playing contact sports?

Absolutely not, say experts. The benefits still outweigh the potential harm.

“One of the most important things is having an open dialogue among the athletes, parents, coaches and athletic trainers so that they can work together to give athletes the resources necessary to be successful in their sports,” Kitchin said.