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Safety First: How To Stop Frequent ADHD-Related Injuries

A new approach that parents can use to help avoid their worst nightmare — their child having a concussion or a broken leg on the playing field.

As a 12-year-old boy with ADHD, I have been injured more times than kids without ADHD. Most recently, I suffered a serious concussion while playing a casual game of football during my after-school program. I dove to catch a ball without considering my surroundings. This is one thing that ADHD does to a kid: You wind up focusing on only one thing, kind of like blinders on a horse.

My concussion sidelined me for two months. As soon as I was cleared for play, I had another collision while playing third base for my Little League team. A big burly kid barreled into me as he slid into third base, hyper-extending my knee. As I write this story, I am in my second week of wearing a big brace. It never occurred to me to protect my body as I readied myself to make a play or to be aware that a large kid on the other team was waiting on second to advance to my base.

Following my second injury, I met with my psychologist and he opened my eyes to the fact that affects a lot of kids and teen athletes with ADHD: They don’t think about protecting their bodies while competing. Dr. Richfield said that I needed to learn how to think about the rules of what he calls Body Protective Play.

He told me that he coined this term to emphasize the need for kids to think about their safety when playing contact sports. It means being aware, at any time during competition, that a player can put his body into a dangerous position and suffer injury that takes him or her out of competition for a long time. I know it because it has happened to me too many times.

Body Protective Play, says Dr. Richfield, is more than just actions you take during competition, like moving away from third base when the runner is coming your way. It’s a way of thinking. It’s like mapping out the potential dangers, whether it is your opponents on the playing field or something else, and keeping that map in your mind while you play your sport. It also means that you have to think ahead and not blindly run on the field and hope for the best.

Thinking ahead means you should consider how fast a pitcher throws the ball and finding out how often he hits batters. It means taking note of big kids on the other team. It means doing a quick inspection of the field to see if there are any ruts or irregularities that could cause you to trip and hurt yourself. If you know something is wrong with the field, make sure to avoid that spot. My Little League field has a small ditch in center field that could cause you to twist your ankle.

In short, you need to check your surroundings when you arrive at the field but also prepare yourself to take safety steps during competition so that you don’t sacrifice your bodily safety. Once the game begins, make sure the hyperfocus blinders don’t go on. Remind yourself, “My body is more important than making a play!”

Another helpful idea is to ask your parents to videotape some of the game when you are on the field. Later, you and your dad can review the tape and see how well you protected your body while playing. Examine the film from the standpoint of whether you watched out for yourself or you put yourself in some unnecessary danger. Talk to your parents about what you notice and be open to what your parents suggest about Body Protective Play, even though that can be hard sometimes.