Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Baseball Players with ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, often called ADD or ADHD, is a medical term that refers to people with problems related with inattention, impulsivity, hyperactivity and boredom. It is a neurological based medical condition and doesn’t point to willful defiance. The percentage of the general population with ADHD is estimated at 6%, with boys being three times more prone to this ailment than girls. Keeping this percentage in mind, in America alone there are at least 17 million people living with ADHD, majority of them happen to be male.

Thinking of boys, one is reminded of baseball, a game heavily dominated by men. Presently, a hot debate is on whether players with ADHD should be allowed to play baseball or not. The factors in favor far outweigh the reasons that are advanced by people to stop players with ADHD from playing baseball. Just as, it would be highly cruel to force a wheel chair ridden boy suffering from muscular dystrophy to go and play baseball, it would be equally cruel to forbid a boy from playing baseball, simply because he is born with ADHD. He is not handicapped and is biologically fit. You can’t treat a hale and hearty man as an invalid.

Sports, especially baseball has emerged as an answer to provide much needed succor to people with ADHD. For quite sometime, it was thought that ADHD can only be controlled or checked with the help of pharmacological treatment that uses central nervous system (CNS) stimulants like methylphenidate, commonly know as Ritalin. Seeing the enormous side-effects of such drugs that can cause suppression of growth, insomnia, tachycardia, appetite loss, depression, abdominal pain, and dependence on drug, the attention got shifted towards non- pharmacological methods of controlling ADHD. Baseball has proved to be very effective in having a therapeutic effect on people with ADHD. Can the ADHD be ever told that they have no right to improve their lot through a sport that provides them with a chance to overcome their disabilities?

William E. Pelham, Jr. and Debra A. Murphy and Joseph Clinton of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic along with their distinguished team conducted a study entitled, “Methylphenidate and Baseball Playing in ADHD Children: Who's On First?” and arrived at this conclusion, “Because medication did not improve children's baseball skills… we have modified the treatment in our summer program to include a relatively greater emphasis on teaching sports skills and sports knowledge to our ADHD children.” The participation of these boys in baseball brought about a remarkable improvement in their behavioral disorder.

They showed increased self-confidence and greater peer acceptance. They seemed happier, contented, and less problematic and displayed much less attention-seeking behavior. William E. Pelham, Jr. et al further suggest, “Good, systematic, and intensive coaching and a great deal of practice may yield improvement in ADHD children's sports performance comparable with or complementary to improvement induced by medication.”

One must not forget that the people with ADHD are neither abnormal nor recessive. There is no reason to keep them away from competitive games like baseball. They feel depressed only in a particular environment. They show signs of inattentiveness in a specific situation only, say while reading course book or doing studies. Research has proven that the ADHD boys can show tremendous concentration and interest in activities close to their heart. So, they should be looked upon as persons with special attributes rather than people with deficiencies. A healthy change of mindset would put things in the right perspective.

Over the years the American society has become conformist and increasingly perfectionist. These concepts tend to censure the defining behavior of an ADHD who displays distractibility, impulsivity and hyperactivity. These terms certainly have negative connotations and overtones. These attributes are mentioned by detractors as a chief reason to keep players with ADHD away from baseball.

Mark Zeigler, the staff writer of Union-Tribune launches a scathing attack on the presence of players with ADHD in Major League Baseball in his article, “Baseball’s Bane”. He writes, “baseball has a “rigorous” procedure for players to apply for a medical waiver for ADHD, but several sources have indicated it isn't as strict as in the anti-doping agency's code and that there's room for abuse – and that, indeed, the number of requested ADHD exemptions in baseball has risen.” This is a clear attempt at putting the onus for drug abuse on the presence of players with ADHD in the team. The fact is the ouster of the ADHD from baseball is not going to bring down the drug abuse in the Major League in any way.

The supporters of players with ADHD strongly feel that distractibility, impulsivity and hyperactivity are completely wrong labels. They must not be allowed to mar the genuine prospects of the ADHD in baseball. When seen in the correct perspective, they can prove to be of tremendous advantage in the game of baseball. They point out that Michael Jordon’s unusual height was a liability till it proved to be a priceless advantage in the basketball court.

Similarly, distractibility is in reality keen awareness of the surroundings, impulsiveness is spontaneity and hyperactivity is that extra burst of energy which is so very well suited to the game of baseball. These attributes are god gifted in the people with ADHD and do not require to be bolstered by some harmful drugs. Thus, the baseball team that will have greater number of players with ADHD will surely have an edge over the team that has less or none. No wonder, the finest baseball players of all times like Babe Ruth, Jason Kidd, Pete Rose and Nolan Ryan have all been ADHD.


Pelham, William E. Jr., & Debra A. Murphy, & Joseph Clinton (1990). Methylphenidate and
Baseball Playing in ADHD Children: Who's On First? Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 58, No. 1,130-133

Zeigler, Mark. (2007, April) Baseball’s Bane. SignonSandiego.com. Retrieved on April 23,2007,
from http://www.signonsandiego.com/sports/baseball/20070415-9999-lz1n15bane.html

Academic Help


Sibel said...

I have two cousin age 8 and 18 which were diagnose ADHD, I can see the difference between their behavior with and without their medication. I am questioning the method of sedating children to lower their level of energy. It is in my opinion a quick fix that eliminate the symptoms and making the parent happy to not have to deal with the real issue - looking for an outlet to use all that hyper activity.

Academic said...

Dear Sibel,

You are very right in your observation and viewpoint. No wonder, you have a personal experience of the ground reality with the example of your two cousins in front of you.

Actually, I was about to publish an article addressing and dealing with the issues raised by you when I received your comment. You have in reality corroborated my thesis by citing the case of your cousins with ADHD. Do send your views on that article too.

Trudi Figueroa said...

My son is an amazing 8 year old boy who has been diagnosed with ADD mixed-type (both ADD and ADHD). He takes medication, not to lower his energy level, but to help him focus his energy on the task at hand enabling him to complete it successfully. Medication has allowed him the opportunity to soar academically, socially and with sports especially baseball. I wonder if there is any correlation to the fact that children with ADHD seem to be drawn to baseball. My son plays soccer and baseball, but he LOVES baseball. He would rather play baseball than do anything else. Why don't you try that as your thesis.

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