Learning Disabilities in Student-Athletes

A large number of athletes usually experience the ADHD. Various studies show that between 8-10% of all the professional athletes have such disorder. The scientists always argue that there is a connection between athletics and ADHD. Unlike other dynamic sports activities, meaning that the participants require much attention, it is not always the case with athletics. The reduced required level of concentration allows them to participate competitively in the sport. For this reason, current paper reviewed the literature on ADHD from different perspectives ranging from those dealing with its definition, causes, symptoms and even how one can manage the condition.

It means that students in universities are no exempted. The disorder usually starts at the age of seven and is more prevalent in boys than girls. By definition, ADHD is a set of behavioral symptoms, which includes inattentiveness, impulsiveness and hyperactivity. Current paper describes the nature of ADHD learning disabilities in student-athletes and the techniques that counselors and educators have used to help the students succeed in university settings.

Nature of the Disability

Although there is no scientific evidence asserting the causes of ADHD, majority of researchers tend to agree that the condition is an inheritance from the parents. At present, scholars are still working on finding the exact gene that could cause the disease. Through their efforts, scientists have been able to spot a particular gene that is usually accompanied by a thinner brain tissue that is associated with attention. The studies showed that the variance was temporary. Nevertheless, as the children with a particular gene grew up, their brains also developed to a normal thickness and a concurrent increase in the symptoms of ADHD (Cooper et al., 2011).

Apart from the genes, scientists also speculate that the living environment of the child can also stimulate the development of ADHD. Scientists have found a great connection between ADHD in children born from the parents who had smoking habits or drank alcohol during pregnancies. Similarly, children exposed to high levels of lead are at risk of developing the condition. The children are exposed to the lead through paint of old buildings and the fixtures of plumbing. Another factor that can lead to ADHD is a brain injury. Researchers have noted some similarities in behaviors of children who had suffered from brain injuries to those kids with ADHD. Nevertheless, brain injuries account for only a small percentage of children suffering from ADHD (Chronis, Chacko, & Barkley, 2013).

There are also speculations that refined sugar can cause ADHD or enhance the symptoms of the disorder. However, many research findings tend to discount the theory. Besides high levels of sugar, there are studies that link consumptions of some food additives to ADHD. Mostly, the link is strong among children using artificial additives, such as food preservatives and colors (Greven et al., 2014).

There are various universal characteristics of disorder, which I have observed with a number of individuals with ADHD. However, their condition would depend on the type of disorder that they have been suffering from. Generally, those people who have the inattentive ADHD will always be distracted easily, forget things, miss details and regularly switch from one activity to the other. They will also have difficulties in focusing on one thing and become easily bored unless their activity is extremely enjoyable. In a school setting, the students suffering from the disorder can also have problems in focusing their attention on completing and organizing tasks. Equally, they find it difficult to learn new concepts and complete their assignments. It is due to often misplacement of materials that they need for completing the task. More so, they do not seem to listen when someone speaks to them, daydream frequently, they are confused and have sluggish movements. In addition, they have trouble in processing information as accurately and quickly as others and they struggle to follow instructions (Putukian et al., 2011).

From observation, students who are hyperactive will always have squirm and fidget in their seats, talk a lot, touch, play and dash around with everything and anything on sight. They have a problem with sitting still, they always move and face some troubles in doing things or activities quietly. On the contrary, those who are impulsive will constantly be impatient, utter inappropriate comments, act without caring for the consequences and show emotions without any restraint. They frequently interrupt activities or conversations of other people (Greven et al., 2014).

With the above symptoms, it is still hard to detect some cases of ADHD and it requires a specialist to diagnose the disorder. In doing so, the pediatrician always asks questions some of which include the following: do the person experience undetected seizures; do they have an infection in their middle years; do they have undetected vision or hearing problems, depression or anxiety, any learning disability among others. Such children may also experience Tourette syndrome and conduct disorders, oppositional defiant and bipolar disorders. However, an adult should experience such disorders being a child in order for the specialists to diagnose them with ADHD. Diagnosis of an adult may even espouse review of the person’s childhood behaviors history and experiences at school. The health expert may also need to interview parents, close friends and other people beside the set of physical examinations and psychological tests that he or she will conduct (Chronis, Chacko, & Barkley, 2013).

Various Techniques Used to Help the Students

Currently, the doctors have not found any cure for ADHD, but available treatments and techniques target having the ADHD symptoms’ reduced and functioning improved. Available treatments include medication, education or training, several types of psychotherapy or a combination of treatments. In the medication, there are three types of tablets depending on the subtype of ADHD, side effects of the drug, other conditions of the patient and the affect the prescription can have on schoolwork. Such medications enhance the patient’s concentration levels, make them feel calmer, less impulsive and encourage them to obtain new skills (Chronis, Chacko, & Barkley, 2013).

Apart from the doctors’ medication, there are techniques that counselors and educators may employ to help the students with the disorder succeed in their university life. For instant, there are several therapies that the different professionals may conduct to assist the patient in treating other additional conditions such as anxiety, conduct and depression. The first: the counselors aim at helping the patient with life and the conditions of mental health. The second: there are also the psychiatrists who have more training in the treatment of mental problems. The third: psychologists who specialize in the physical assessment and treatment of mental conditions. The fourth: social workers who synchronize the gap between the broad provisions of social services with the mental health conditions in advising on divergent practical issues (Putukian et al., 2011).

Psychotherapy may also assist in controlling the condition. Basically, it is one kind of talking therapy, which encourages the patient to have a discussion with the family members on how the disorder affects them. It would then make the family understand the patient and assist in reducing the harshness of ADHD. Similarly, there are also behavioral therapies that entail providing someone to take care of the patient. Normally, it is collaboration between parents and the teachers. Usually, it uses a system of reward and punishment to encourage good behaviors, while discouraging the bad ones. In addition, the parents can undergo some training on how to manage the child’s behavior. The patients can also have some social skills training that aims at teaching them to behave well by showing how their behavior affects others (Barkley, Murphy, & Fischer, 2010).

A person can apply other methods in treating the disorder, such as the cognitive behavioral therapy, which is also a talking therapy aimed at changing the thinking of the patient, cutting out certain diets and taking food supplements. Moreover, the patients should also be encouraged to take more exercise, since sports add health and reinforce discipline, teamwork and cooperation. The physical activity may also increase self-esteem and satisfactions in life (Chronis, Chacko, & Barkley, 2013).

I personally believe that there exist a number of strategies, which can also be used to help student athletes with such working disability. Scientists claim that the most of the students with ADHD have impaired motor functions and always resort to sports as an outlet to their need of being active. Similarly, most of the students with the disorder do not experience any motor coordination difficulties. It means that they have more positive interactions while playing than when studying. For this reason, I would motivate them to participate in sports to help improve the functionality of a child suffering from ADHD. Sport acts as a fallback and a haven for the negative feedback that they usually get from other situations (Barkley, Murphy, & Fischer, 2010).

Latest figures indicate that there are almost 7.3% sports people with ADHD who are professional athletes. Deductively, I believe it is also right to speculate that ADHD has some hidden advantages. For example, studies show that the condition of impulsivity is usually characterized by quick and spontaneous decision-making. Similarly, there are researchers who have found that many athletes suffering from ADHD have the hyper-ability in focusing, can actually avoid distractions and focus more on competitive sports as long as they enjoy the sporting activity. A good example is Phelps Michael who has been suffering from ADHD, but has won numerous Olympic gold medals in swimming competitions. Michael is said to be suffering from the disorder, but has exceptional ability to focus while swimming (Cooper et al., 2011).

Another strategy would be to encourage students to continue seeking medical attention from qualified doctors. Normally, doctors prescribe some medication to people who have ADHD. The medications are always stimulants, which are meant to help the athletes stay focus. At times, the medication leads to reduced appetite and sleep problems. However, their impacts on sports are an increased acceleration, knee strength, time to exhaustion before and during exercise and increased heart rates. Besides, many athletes with ADHD have shown an enhanced performance in warm conditions. The players produced high power output and had increased core temperatures with any perception of an increase in efforts or thermal stress. However, the medication can enhance the risk of developing illness associated with heat when exercising (Chronis, Chacko, & Barkley, 2013).


From the above discussion, it is clear that there is no definite cause of ADHD that the scientists have identified. Subsequently, it has been hard for the researchers to develop a cure for such disorder. Therefore, various governmental bodies and health experts should try to encourage more studies on this field. An increase in the basic knowledge of the condition can maximize the chances of the researchers to come up with vaccines or even cure for the disorder.


Barkley, R. A., Murphy, K. R., & Fischer, M. (2010). ADHD in adults: What the science says. Guilford Press.
Chronis-Tuscano, A., Chacko, A., & Barkley, R. (2013). Key issues relevant to the efficacy of behavioral treatment for ADHD. American Journal of Psychiatry, 170(7), 723-799.
Greven, C. Kovas, Y.  Willcutt, E. G., Petrill, S. A., & Plomin, R. (2014). Evidence for shared genetic risk between ADHD symptoms and reduced mathematics ability: A twin study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 55(1), 39-48.
Putukian, M., Kreher, J. B., Coppel, D. B.,Glazer, J. L., McKeaq, D. B., & White, R. D. (2011). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and the athlete: An American Medical Society for Sports Medicine position statement. Clinical Journal of sports Medicine, 2 (6), 390-403