ADHD meds and athletic performance

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    • #77049

      Hi All! My 15 year old son was just diagnosed with mild/moderate ADHD. Never got in trouble in school till puberty hit and he’s not all that bad, just hard for him to focus and some impulse control (i.e. talking too much or using his phone) and grades alipping. Could be worse, but we are considering medications to help him. Our concern is whether they will affect his athletic performance. He is an excellent athlete, really amazing with college coaches already looking at him. He is lived by his coaches (unlike his teachers). I have a suspicion that the “hyperfocus” aspect of ADHD helps him be a great athlete and we do NOT want to do anything to mess that up as it is a source of great pride and self esteem for him.

      So, does anyone know if the ADHD meds have an impact on the hyperfocus and athletic abilityy of a teen?
      Thank you all so so much for support and advice!!

    • #77074
      Penny Williams

      I would assume that increased focus and less impulsivity would be an asset in most athletics. If he loses his spark, he’s on too high of a dose or the wrong ADHD medication.

      Here’s more on ADHD medication:

      A Patient’s Primer on the Stimulant Medications Used to Treat ADHD

      ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #80128

      Just maybe not worth it though because ADHD meds are almost always going to zap appetite, almost always make sleep harder, and likely will raise anxiety if given in excess dosages as well as exacerbate fatigue from sports (as is usually the case). Life is horrible and I’m not trying to be a jerk to you at all I PROMISE but I’m so thankful I wasn’t on ADHD meds after 7 years in cross country, 3 in soccer, 1 in basketball, 2 in baseball. The meds do not function well for me and many others when done with intense exercise sports (that high schools tend to push for and promote with all the record-setting and nonsense). It’s the child’s call, but if nothing else aim LOW DOSE i’m telling you LOW DOSE is the bomb with these meds. Too little I get it can be unreasonable but too high is not worth it if you can avoid it! I have to take high dose, but I’m not a fan and I prefer low-dose even though it doesn’t help nearly as much. Best wishes to you and your high schooler.

      P.S. watch for low testosterone, lipid imbalances, hypertension, growth over set periods of time and monitor caloric intake+sleeping. will go far in ADHD treatment.

    • #80636

      I created an account just to reply to this post. My young son is a great athlete and has been on Ritalin since kindergarten. It really does effect his play. We don’t usually give him medicine on weekends just for a break but when we do occasionally and he has a sporting event I think the calming focusing appears to slow him down. He’s not old enough to give an accurate assessment if I asked him.

      I was recently diagnosed as an adult just skimmed over it forever with the symptoms always there. I do remember that sports was always a great way for me to focus and clear my head without medicine because it was the only time distractability and restlessness was gone. Now as an adult taking Ritalin I do see in myself that I don’t feel the “need” to workout as often as I used to. Before I would go to the gym just to clear my head and it would help with some of the cloudiness. Point being it appears to slow me down as well, at least from an athletic desire perspective but I’m not sure specifically as to performance.

      Long non answer but figured it was some relevant feedback to help guide your decision.

    • #80637

      Our almost 14 year old son has been on meds since he was 5 because his ADHD is more severe than what you’ve described. Around age 11 he became interested in basketball. I can tell you that being medicated (pretty high dosage) has not affected his being hyper focused on his sport at all. He is still just as obsessed as a kid could be really. And his appetite is perfectly normal now but was definitely lessened the first several years. Maybe since your son won’t need as high of a dosage his appetite won’t be affected as much as higher dosages.
      I also feel the need to interject that doing well in school is always more important than sports even when there is athleticism there. He may get injured and needs his education to fall back on.. therefore medication is certainly worth trying at least.

    • #80663

      My son (11) seems to perform better without them. I tried both ways- and I think the meds tend to make him too anxious, or overstimulated, or something. At first I thought it helped, but now I’m convinced he’s better without them.
      It must depend on the individual.

    • #80664

      First there are new studies that show that a combination of stim meds and therapy allow for smaller amounts of stim meds to be given and the effectiveness is just as good.
      Second, as another poster has stated, the meds can be tailored to the situation. There are short acting and long acting meds. He can take a short acting one and have it out of his system by 1 or 2 in the afternoon.
      And, I agree with ADHDMomma, if it affects his concentration it is too high a dose.
      Fourth, the sport does make a difference. I wish you had said which sport he was into. for example, I think that in something like Baseball, the meds would be very helpful. In Tennis, not as necessary, but really should not make much of a difference. However, in all cases, (as with all of these meds) it takes trial and error to hit the right amount.
      Finally, if he is really a good athletic – where do you want him to go to school? A state school or someplace like Stanford? He will need the meds to help him in school ( and to help prevent anxiety, depression, and self medication (vis-a-vie Phelps). The point being that school, and friends, and maybe even sports can be helped with meds. You just have to take the time and research to figure it out.
      But, most importantly, you need to make sure that he is aware what is going on and the reason for the medication (if you go that route).
      Hope this helps.

    • #80675

      I’m ADHD, I am a dad of two ADHD kids, and, most revelent to your question, I coached jr high and high school soccer for years. I got the nickname the ADHD coach because I loved having the “un-coachable, never going to succeed” ADHD kids that the other coaches abandoned. What I always told my adhd players was that they had to be honest about their meds to mom and/or dad. Tell them if you don’t feel like they are helping or the dosage is off. My son, who played soccer through high school, is on his third different adhd med. After awhile, the first med and then the second one he was on wasnt giving him the results he needed. He knew that he could come to us anytime about his meds and we would make an appointment to see the doctor and support him 100%. He has always been very open about his meds with us as a result. Most of my players, including my son, stayed on the meds gameday because it was more often than not a school day. Given that the boys never finished any lower than second place, I think its safe to say they did just fine while on their meds!!! In fact, if I noticed any unusual changes in one of the boys behaviors and/or focus, I would take him aside and ask him privately if he had taken his meds that day. More often than not, the answer was “no”. So, in my opinion, for most of my adhd players, meds “improved” their game by keeping them focused and more attuned to their teammates. But there are exceptions to every rule and your son may feel his game slips as a result. If he’s an elite player, chances are pretty high his coach wants him to succeed. Let’s be honest, elite athletes make coaches look better than they really are. My teams made me look “brillant” and I most certainly was not. Ask your son if he would be comfortable having a discussion with you, your spouse, and the coach. Let the coach know what’s going on and ask him/her to track your son’s performance and keep you informed so you can keep your doctor informed. As I’m sure you realized by now, most “neuro-normal” people THINK they know alot about adhd, but most know close to nothing besides stereotypes, myths, and prejudice. You may need to gently “coach” the coach for him/her to understand what your son is dealing with. I know a team can be remarkably successful with adhd athletes in starring roles. My boys put together quite a few undefeated seasons. It’s not hard to give a “go get ’em”, rousing pep talk to teen boys that have been discounted and pushed to side because of mental health bias. I would get glares from my adhd starters when I pulled them from a game that we were winning in a blowout. They always wanted more. Not to harm the other team, but to prove themselves to the doubters. They can be insatiable for success, which makes them a coach’s dream. So, while adhd athletes can be great on the field, don’t forget to make sure your boy knows he can be great off the field, too. After all, the odds of any kid becoming a professional athlete are lotto like. You said his teachers don’t “love” him. Have you spoken to the school about an IEP or 504 plan? A few accomadations may relieve some of the tensions in the classroom. I’m not going to say it has helped with every teacher my son had. Bias is alive and well in some classrooms. But I strongly doubt my son would have been anywhere as near successful in school as he was without his 504 plan. It’s not that he’s not smart, it’s that he thinks differently than what most teachers are used to. Final word from me on meds and athletes, be aware there is an adhd drug out there that lists as a possible side effect that it may hinder growth. A doctor I trust told me, even though the odds were very, very low, it may cost a kid an inch or two of height. That’s potentially huge for an athlete. So, until your son is done growing, you may want to discuss that particular med with your doctor and get his/her thoughts on that.

    • #80701

      My 14 year old son appears to perform well in sports (basketball and baseball) when not on stimulants. He seems to be more restrained while playing on meds. We manage well because we give him med in the morning and practices or games are usually late afternoon or evening and stim usually wears off by then. With games on the weekends we don’t give him the stimulant. As for growth and no appetite, after a while we were able to get the right dose (lower than most kids his age and size) and is in the 75% for growth/weight. He eats breakfast before his med, and still has lunch. When I pick him up at 3:30, he’s starving but still able to focus to get through homework! I think it likely differs from person to person, but we need him on stims for school to help with focus and attention – without it we saw his grades drop. Unfortunately it may be trial and error for you.. best of luck.

      • This reply was modified 3 years, 9 months ago by cb10019.
      • This reply was modified 3 years, 9 months ago by cb10019.
    • #80828

      I was diagnosed with ADHD (inattentive) when I was 18 years old, freshmen in college. I played D3 college basketball at the time. Adderall negatively effected me as an athlete mostly because I let it. It’s a difficult transition from mental focus to physical performance, no matter how natural of an athlete he is (or i was). i’d say if it’s a big concern for you as a parent and for him as an athlete, get a plan together to help him really crack down on the book and find a natural way for him to focus. If he’s really struggling as a student, take him to the doctor to have him tested. This is just my experience – however, he is only 15 while i was 18 when i was diagnosed. Also, i’m a woman, there could be something there. However, if you and him decide to give medication a try, i have a few tips.

      -MAKE SURE he is eating the same amount, if not more, than what he usually would eat. Especially after a workout. Protein shakes make help, especially if he is already drinking them.
      -He should consume 1 gallon of water a day and that’s not including what he should consume during a workout
      -Having nightly routine that will naturally wind his mind down from a fast paced day (dim room, stretching, melatonin helps, too)

      Good luck to you and him!

    • #186755

      I’m a 22 year old goaltender who played in the OHL (a high level of junior hockey). I have no medical need for Concerta but experimented with it and while I feel as though I can take on the world while on a normal dose, it does negatively affect play. I do not take it regularly (not during practices), and the increased focus seems to stop me from reaching a state of “flow”; I’m too on edge to perform my best in games. Maybe practice how you play has some truth to it eh.
      Not sure if you find this info useful but teammates with legitimate prescriptions have told me similar stories. They do not take a dose on game day. And preferably after a morning practice.
      They did however, tend to use pre workout and/or coffee and smelling salts before games. This is what most of us did, but they said they felt sluggish without some sort of stimulation. How much of this was a mental thing vs. a legitimate requirement, it’s tough to say.

      Now in university for engineering, I use it to bang out 10 hours of work lol but that’s besides the point. Hope this helps with your son.

    • #186768
      Dr. Eric

      The stimulants are banned under NCAA rules, but I believe there is a Therapeutic Use Exemption process for them.

      However, for practical purposes, most therapeutic doses for ADHD are lower than what I hear athletes take for performance enhancement purposes.

      (For reference, in addition to being an educational psychologist, I have a side gigs on amateur sports commissions (U.S. Fight League and the CA Amateur MMA Organization). I have an awareness of what PEDs professional and amateur athletes take as a result.))

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