Multiple Self-Reported Concussions Are More Prevalent in Athletes With ADHD and Learning Disability

Clin J Sport Med. 2016 Mar;26(2):120-7. doi: 10.1097/JSM.0000000000000207.


Objective: We evaluated how attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and learning disability (LD) are associated with concussion history and performance on standard concussion assessment measures. Based on previous reports that developmental disorders are associated with increased injury proneness and poorer cognitive performance, we anticipated that ADHD and LD would be associated with increased history of concussion and poorer baseline performance on assessment measures.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Setting: Clinical research center.

Participants: The study sample aggregated data from two separate projects: the National Collegiate Athletic Association Concussion Study and Project Sideline.

Interventions: We analyzed preseason baseline data from 8056 high school and collegiate athletes (predominantly male football players) enrolled in prior studies of sport-related concussion.

Main outcome measures: Measures included demographic/health history, symptoms, and cognitive performance.

Results: Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder and LD were associated with 2.93 and 2.08 times the prevalence, respectively, of 3+ historical concussions (for comorbid ADHD/LD the prevalence ratio was 3.38). In players without histories of concussion, individuals with ADHD reported more baseline symptoms, and ADHD and LD were associated with poorer performance on baseline cognitive tests. Interactive effects were present between ADHD/LD status and concussion history for self-reported symptoms.

Conclusions: Neurodevelopmental disorders and concussion history should be jointly considered in evaluating concussed players.

Clinical relevance: Clinical judgments of self-reported symptoms and cognitive performance should be adjusted based on athletes' individual preinjury baselines or comparison with appropriate normative samples.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Athletes / statistics & numerical data*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / epidemiology*
  • Brain Concussion / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning Disabilities / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Self Report
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult