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Study: Athletes with ADHD may take more time to recover from concussion symptoms

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People with ADHD may take three times as long to recover from mild traumatic brain injuries.

UFC 210: Weidman v Mousasi
FILE PHOTO - Chris Weidman is looked at by the doctor during the fight with Gegard Mousasi of the Netherlands in their middleweight bout during the UFC 210 event at KeyBank Center on April 8, 2017 in Buffalo, New York.
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

A recent study conducted by the University of South Carolina (UNC) has concluded that athletes who have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be slower to recover from concussion symptoms (per HealthDay News).

The UNC study examined 120 college athletes who had suffered mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI) leading to symptoms commonly associated with concussions (headaches, light sensitivity, nausea, irritability, inability to focus). Forty of those students had diagnoses of ADHD. Half of the student athletes with ADHD were taking stimulant medications for the condition.

All of the subjects were evaluated before their seasons began. The subjects were then evaluated two days after an mTBI was believed to have been sustained. The subjects final evaluations came when they were cleared to return to playing with no restrictions.

The 80 subjects who did not have ADHD suffered with concussion symptoms for four days, on average. The subjects who had ADHD, and were taking ADHD medication, suffered with concussion symptoms for an average of 12 days. Subjects with ADHD who were not on medication had concussion symptoms for 10 days, on average.

All the subjects who had ADHD suffered greater losses in verbal memory than subjects who did not have ADHD. The ADHD group also reported more severe symptoms one or two days after their injuries.

The un-medicated ADHD group showed the largest declines in thinking and learning skills as a result of an mTBI. The medicated ADHD group performed worse in visual motor speed tests compared to the un-medicated ADHD group.

The scientists behind the study stated that these results were useful in helping to determine why some athletes suffer with concussion symptoms longer than others. They added that the study supported the idea that athletes with ADHD should be monitored carefully, since there was a greater chance of prolonged recovery from concussion symptoms.

The team involved couched all these findings with the importance of a follow up study, involving a larger pool of participants, to see if these results would be replicated.

According to the ADHD Institute, approximately 2.8% of the world’s population (over 200 million people) has been diagnosed with the condition. According to Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) 4.4% of adults in the US have ADHD.

A number of notable figures in MMA have publicly shared their ADHD diagnoses. UFC veteran, and former Strikeforce champion, Nick Diaz once argued that his use of marijuana helped manage his ADHD symptoms. ONE FC’s Garry Tonon also has an ADHD diagnosis. Former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir once had a therapeutic use exemption to use Adderall (a common medication for ADHD) from the Nevada Athletic Commission, though that was rescinded in 2015. On a March 2016 edition of the MMA Roasted podcast, former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman spoke about what he called his ADD—a once widely used term for Attention Deficit Disorder. ADD is now considered an out-dated term for ADHD (per

The charity Understood has claimed that martial arts can be of benefit to children who have learning and attention issues. Reasons given for this include martial arts’ focus on individual growth, concrete and attainable goals, routines which are broken down into manageable chunks, and an emphasis on self-control and concentration.