PhotoInjury kills more 11-year-olds in the United States than all other causes combined, and a new study from University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) shows ADHD almost doubles the risk of serious injury among this age group.

“We found that children with more ADHD symptoms, those in the 90th percentile, are nearly twice as likely to get hurt as those with symptoms in the 10th percentile,” said David Schwebel, Ph.D., director of the UAB Youth Safety Laboratory and lead author.

In this group, boys are nearly twice as likely as girls to be injured.

ADHD is a problem with inattentiveness, over-activity, impulsivity, or a combination. For these problems to be diagnosed as ADHD, they must be out of the normal range for a child's age and development.

Commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder

ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder of childhood, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. It affects about 3three to five percent of school aged children. ADHD is diagnosed much more often in boys than in girls

The research, published in the September/October Academic Pediatrics, studied 4,745 fifth-graders from Houston, Los Angeles and Birmingham. Serious injury is defined as one that requires medical attention; more than half of the injuries included broken bones.

“These are children that no longer have adults or parents or teachers watching over them all the time, which means they have to make decisions on their own,” Schwebel said. “Children with ADHD are impulsive, inattentive; they may not notice things because their mind is wandering, and they’re hyperactive so they’re always moving and getting into things.”

5.4 million children

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says 9.4 percent, or 5.4 million, children ages 4-17 in the United States have been diagnosed with ADHD. Schwebel, professor in the UAB Department of Psychology, says this study will improve injury-prevention strategies for millions of mental health practitioners, pediatricians, parents and children.

“Medication, seeing a psychologist and getting treatment for ADHD will reduce the risk and the symptoms,” Schwebel said. “In some cases you can make the child aware and get them to think about what they’re doing so they will slow down and be more careful. It won’t work for everyone, but it certainly can’t hurt to try.”

This study is part of UAB’s Healthy Passages research, a decade-long program funded by the CDC, designed to help families, health-care providers, schools and communities develop effective policies and programs to keep children and adolescents healthy.

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