College athletes with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be slower to recover from a concussion and may have more severe symptoms.
That's the preliminary conclusion of a study of 120 US college athletes who suffered concussions. Forty had ADHD; 80 did not. Of those with ADHD, half were taking stimulant medications for the disorder.
Greater symptom burden
All were evaluated before the season, within two days after a concussion, and again when they were cleared to play with no restrictions.
Concussion symptoms averaged 12 days for athletes with ADHD who were taking medication; 10 days for those with ADHD who were not on medication; and four days for those without ADHD.
"These results may help as we try to determine why some athletes take longer to return to play and experience greater symptom burden," said co-author R. Davis Moore, an assistant professor of exercise science at the University of South Carolina.
All the athletes with ADHD had greater losses than others in verbal memory and more severe concussion symptoms one to two days after their injury, the study found.
Compared to injured athletes without ADHD, those with unmedicated ADHD had larger declines in thinking and learning skills days after their concussion and also when they returned to play.
Researchers said athletes with ADHD who were taking stimulant medications responded more slowly at both of those times than those without ADHD on tests of visual motor speed.
The preliminary findings were to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology Sports Concussion Conference in Indianapolis. Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
"Athletes with ADHD should be monitored with this [slower response] in mind, as they may be more susceptible to prolonged recovery, and in general it's important to be aware of and address pre-existing health conditions in anyone at risk for concussion," Moore said in a meeting news release.
"Although, these results are intriguing, they will need to be replicated with larger studies," he said.
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