The use of psychostimulants among adolescent athletes with reported ADHD impacts computerized neurocognitive baseline test performance

J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2014 Mar;


Sandel, N., P. Schatz, M. R. Lovell and G. Solomon.



Objective: Athletes with ADHD demonstrate a lowered performance on computerized neurocognitive testing relative to controls. Limited research has examined whether the use of stimulant medication for ADHD impacts athletes’ neurocognitive test performance. This study retrospectively compared the neurocognitive performance of stimulant-medicated and non-medicated athletes aged 13 to 18 (M=15.33; SD=1.39) who reported a history of ADHD at baseline. Participants and Methods: Stimulant athletes (N=334; 78 females, 256 males) reported the use of psychostimulants and no other psychotropic medications at baseline. Control athletes (N=566; 89 females, 477 males) reported a history of ADHD, but no use of any psychotropic medication at the time of testing. Neurocognitive performance was measured using ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) a brief computerized test battery yielding four composite scores: Verbal Memory [VerbMem], Visual Memory [VisMem], Visual Motor Speed [VisMotSpd], and Reaction Time [RT] derived from six neurocognitive modules. Multivariate (MANOVA) and univariate (ANOVA) analyses of variance were conducted to evaluate differences between stimulant and control athletes on ImPACT. Results: On average, stimulant athletes demonstrated an improved performance relative to controls on all ImPACT composite scores: VerbMem: Stim = 85.20(9.44); Control = 82.38(10.07), VisMem: Stim = 73.02(13.19); Control = 71.13(13.34), VisMotSpd: Stim = 37.50(6.96); Control = 34.99(6.67), and RT: Stim = 0.60 (0.08); Control = 0.61(0.08). MANOVA and subsequent ANOVAs revealed significant results with the stimulant group outperforming controls overall (F(4,895) =9.044, p<.000) and on all ImPACT composite scores: VerbMem (F(1,898) =17.212, p< .000), VisMem (F(1,898) =4.234, p=.040), VisMotSpd (F(1,898) =28.804, p<.000), and RT (F(1,898) =5.962, p=.015). Conclusions: Adolescent athletes with reported ADHD taking stimulants outperform those not taking stimulants on computerized neurocognitive baseline testing

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