Athletes with ADHD Who Sustain Concussions at Higher Risk for Anxiety, Depression


There may be a link between ADHD and Concussion and Prolonged Mental Health Issues.

Athletes need to take measures to protect themselves from head injuries, and prevent concussions. A recent study found that athletes with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may need to be even more cautious in concussion prevention.

Athletes with ADHD may be at an increased risk of suffering from prolonged depression and anxiety after sustaining a concussion than those who do not have ADHD, according to a study presented at the American Academy of Neurology Sport’s Concussion Conference.

The researchers looked at ADHD diagnosis and history of concussion in 979 NCAA Division I student athletes from the University of South Carolina. The students were divided into 4 groups: athletes with ADHD who have had a concussion; athletes with ADHD who have not experienced a concussion; athletes without ADHD who have not had a concussion; and athletes without ADHD who have not had a concussion. Athletes answered questions measuring their mental health before the start of the sport season, according to the authors.

Athletes who had experienced concussions were evaluated at least 6 months after they sustained the concussion to determine how long the effects had lasted. The authors found that athletes with ADHD who had sustained concussions scored higher on tests for anxiety and depression than the other groups, and those symptoms lasted longer than expected.

The depression test asked athletes about their appetite and whether they felt like eating, their level of motivation and the amount of effort they put into tasks, and other factors that may indicate depression. Answers ranged from rarely or none of the time to most of the time, and scores ranged from 0 to 60. Athletes who scored greater than 16 were determined to be at risk for clinical depression. The average score of 26 among athletes with ADHD who had sustained concussions was significantly higher than the other groups who had an average score of 16, according to the authors.

In the anxiety test, athletes were asked how often they felt tense or worried about things that do not matter, along with other questions indicating anxiety, with answers ranging from almost never to almost always and scores ranging from 20 to 80. The athletes with ADHD who sustained a concussion had an average score of 42, while the other groups had an average score of 33, according to the study.

"These findings suggest that ADHD and concussion may have a cumulative effect on anxiety and depression beyond that of either ADHD or concussion alone," said study author Robert Davis Moore, MS, PhD, in a prepared statement. “Athletes with ADHD should be monitored with this in mind, as they may be more susceptible to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety following a concussion."

The authors note that moving forward, more research needs to be done on the relationship between ADHD, concussion, and anxiety and depression, over a longer period of time.


Concussion May Bring Greater Risk for Athletes with ADHD [News Release]. American Academy of Neurology. July 13, 2018. bring-greater-risks-for-athletes-with-adhd-300680636.html. Accessed August 6, 2018.

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