College athletes with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may have more severe symptoms and take longer to recover from concussion. Athletes with ADHD taking psychostimulant medication for ADHD (n = 20) and those who were not taking medication (n = 20) took 12 and 10 days, respectively, to recover from concussions. This was significantly longer than the 4 days to recovery experienced by those without ADHD (n = 80).
The study used data from the NCAA-Department of Defense Grand Alliance: Concussion Assessment, Research, and Education (CARE) Consortium. All the athletes were evaluated before the season started, within 1-2 days after the concussion, and again when they were cleared to play with no restrictions.
Athletes with ADHD had greater deficits in thinking and learning both immediately after concussion and at return-to-play. Those with ADHD who were treated with psychostimulants also had greater deficits in visual motor speed after concussion that remained at return-to-play.
“These results may help as we try to determine why some athletes take longer to return to play and experience greater symptom burden,” said R. Davis Moore, University of South Carolina. “Interestingly, the athletes who were taking stimulant medications did not appear to have any differences in recovery time or symptom burden than athletes who were not taking medication. We had hypothesized that these medications could possibly lessen the symptoms after a concussion or speed recovery, but we did not find that to be the case. Athletes with ADHD should be monitored with this in mind, as they may be more susceptible to prolonged recovery.”
Alexis Dallara-Marsh, MD
Chen Zhao, MD; Claire Flaherty, PhD; Paul J. Eslinger, PhD; and Krishnankutty Sathian, MBBS, PhD