Update: Baseball Players, ADHD, and Rx

Pressured by Congress to crack down  on performance-enhancing drugs and “false claims of A.D.D.,”  Major League Baseball is pleased to report that the number of exemptions for ADHD medications are tapering off.  Is this really news worth celebrating?  I’m not so sure.Baseball Players, ADHD, stimulants

In 2007, the number of players receiving exemptions for ADHD rose to 108, from 28 in 2006.  That figure strikes me as reasonable, not alarming, given increasing public awareness during that time period.

After all, the players receiving exemptions represent about 9 percent of total players, which number  1,200 or so.

Extremely conservative estimates place the percentage of adults with ADHD in the general population at about 4 percent, but experts acknowledge that using more realistic criteria bumps the figure as high as 16 percent.

Yet, as reported in a previous post (“Anti-Doper Doc Dopey about ADHD?”), this spike created quite the rhubarb among sports officials, including non-savvy ADHD physicians.

“This is incredible. This is quite spectacular. There seems to be an epidemic of ADD in major league baseball,” said Dr. Gary Wadler, chairman of the committee that determines the banned-substances list for the World Anti-Doping Agency.

This recent article in The New York Times (“Number of M.L.B. Players Given Drug Exemptions Up Slightly“) explains the latest report on all medication exemptions.

I welcome your comments.


3 thoughts on “Update: Baseball Players, ADHD, and Rx”

  1. A quick update on this point: I recently had the pleasure of meeting with Giants ballplayer Andres Torres. He is a very passionate advocate for ADHD awareness.

    His own ADHD went undiagnosed until 2002, yet he dismissed the diagnosis and possible treatment. Meanwhile, he languished in the minors.

    Shortly after he began treatment, he joined the Giants, the Giants won the World Series, and well, it’s one more case of why I feel no one should be denied the facts about — or access to– effective treatment for ADHD. When it’s necessary, it can mean all the difference in translating innate talents and hard work into sustained success.


  2. Hi David,

    Thanks for visiting. Perhaps I addressed your point in my other ADHD Roller Coaster blog post referenced:

    “One comprehensive survey concluded that about 4.4 percent of the U.S. adult population age 18-44 has ADHD. But that’s a very conservative estimate. Many researchers suspect the true adult population with ADHD lies closer to 10 percent—and possibly as high as 16.4 percent. It all depends on how broadly the diagnostic criteria are applied.

    “In fact, some people speculate that ADHD, particularly the hyperactive subtype, is over-represented in sports such as baseball. So, this 8 percent figure might actually represent under-diagnosis.”

    Also, I know several professional athletes with ADHD who’ve told me they felt they had little choice in careers; their undetected ADHD meant they didn’t do well in school. This lack of diagnosis can particularly be a problem when they leave the sport, either due to injury or age. When they can’t make a go of things in other areas, people often misattribute their problems to their missing the sport.

  3. What you neglect to mention is that people with ADHD most likely gravitate to fields like sports. Think about Michael Phelps – sometimes it takes “hyperfocus” to be the best in your field, and that can mean ADHD!

    Not to mention that people with ADHD tend to experience reduced symptoms after physical exercise.

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