ADHD: asset to athletes, hindrance in retirement

The Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine have published a great research piece titled; Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and the Athlete.

An often overlooked issue in transitioning athletes is the re-emergence of ADHD when they retire. The focus of training and competition often provides a refuge for those who have a lot of energy and tendencies towards hyper focus – two symptoms for having ADHD or ADD.

Put someone with ADD in a classroom or doing a task that they have no interest in and you have a very disenfranchised person who is regarded as lazy in the school system. Many brilliant athletes were classed as outsiders in school because of this very issue.

Put that same person doing something they love and have interest in (sport for example) and you get the hyper focus element of ADD kicking in. These kids find a place to call home and be brilliant at something that also burns off all of their excess energy.

When retirement happens, the sport fades away but the ADD remains and all the old issues of concentration pop back up in adulthood. Not being able to concentrate on one thing long enough when it did not have the same intensity that you had for years with your sport. It can be disastrous for the retired athlete. Intense identity loss and  job hopping which has terrible consequences for their self esteem – and the downward spiral can begin.

Whilst they are still competing, athletes should definitely be screened for ADHD as it can lie undetected in the sporting world because it is the perfect environment for living with the condition.

Transition programmes really need to take this into account when helping athletes tackle the way forward without sport.

Link to the full journal entry below