ADHD AND THE BENEFITS OF PLAYING SPORTS
by The Athlete's Parent Staff
Interview with Dr. Chuang, Owner of the ADD ADHD Treatment Center in Plano, TX
“ADHD is a smart people’s condition. It’s actually a gift that happens to come with baggage,” said Dr. Chuang, owner of the ADD ADHD Treatment Center in Plano, TX as we sat to discuss athletes with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). He pointed out that on average, those with the condition have higher IQs, learn faster, and tend to be talented individuals. In fact, many with ADHD excel in the sports arena. So why is this, and why is playing sports so beneficial to youth with ADHD?
Many who are not fully educated on the topic of ADHD believe that the person with the condition is unable to focus on anything. Dr. Chuang was quick to clear up this misconception describing one with ADHD as having the ability to be hyper focused on things that they are truly interested in or enjoy. This trait enables the athlete with ADHD to thrive and excel athletically. “They feel better when they exercise and play sports,” added Dr. Chuang. In fact, according to Dr. Chuang, “The best natural way to treat ADHD without the use of medication is exercise.” Although some may think that this statement is due to the fact that physical exertion will wear out a child, thus calming him or her; that is not at all what Dr. Chuang explained to be the case. He went on to describe what takes place in the athlete’s brain while playing sports. “During the athletic activity, the Dopamine and Norepinephrine levels go up resulting in calming the brain,” he shared. “This then allows the person to focus better.” This is seen in top golfers who have shared about their experiences with ADHD. Bubba Watson, a multiple major champion winning The Masters in both 2012 and 2014, has commented in interviews about his belief that he has the condition. According to Dr. Chuang, the ability of people with ADHD to be hyper focused on things of interest, lends to the success of golfers having the condition.
Dr. Chuang has also seen the benefits of playing sports to be evident in his own patients. “I have football players who get better grades during the football season, and during the offseason their grades drop,” he added. He attributes their experiences to the fact that during the season the athletes are in a regular schedule of exercise and playing the sport they enjoy, thus being more calm and focused even off of the field.
Well-known athletes have shared about the positive effects their sport has had on their journeys with ADHD. One athlete who has been very open about his ADHD is Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympic swimmer in history. Phelps shared about how swimming helped him in regards to his ADHD when asked in an interview with Parent.com. “It helped me relax. I felt comfortable in the water. I was in my own world, focused. I love sports and I'm a very goal-oriented person. Once I started falling in love with sports, it was easy. I was able to put my mind on something and go for it. That's how I am with everything, it doesn't matter what it is that I do. If I want to do something, nothing will stand in my way.”
Playing sports has also been proven to raise confidence levels in all children. For those with ADHD this is particularly beneficial as they often feel singled out, or notice other’s frustrations with them. Excelling at an individual’s sports such as swimming, golf, or martial arts can be a great boost to the self-esteem of a young person with the condition. Team sports can also elevate their confidence when they feel that they are part of a team. When choosing a sport, parents should take into consideration their child’s personality as well as strengths and weaknesses. Just like all young people, not every sport is for every kid. Forcing a child to play a sport he or she is not interested in will not achieve any of the benefits previously discussed. A great starting point for anyone when choosing a sport is to start with something they love and enjoy focusing their time and energy on…therein lies the benefits!
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Dr. John Chuang
Board-certified by the American Board of Family Medicine, Dr. John Chuang is the owner of the ADD ADHD Treatment Center in Plano, TX where he serves families in the treatment and management of ADHD. Dr.Chuang earned his medical degree from Ross University in Roseau New York, New York, and did his residency at Grant Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio. He is a member of Collin-Fannin County Medial Society; Texas Medical Association; Jefferson Physician Group; CHADD – Children / Adults; and ADDA – Attention Deficit Disorder Association