In middle school, he’d simply zone out on the couch, seemingly ignoring his father’s demands to take out the garbage. In junior college, his athletic director thought he was on speed. Once, in the minor leagues, he was approached about entering a drug treatment evaluation program.
Such has been life for Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler , who is one of the approximately 9 million American adults who deal withattention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). And he’s not the only Ranger dealing with some form of the disorder. It’s one of the reasons this is Attention Deficit Disorder Awareness Week.
They are often labeled willful or rambunctious, hyperactive or impulsive and easily distracted.
Kinsler, 28, has dealt with the disorder and all of those labels for nearly half his life. He can cite examples of just about every classic symptom. Only thing, though: He won’t blame any mistakes on the field on the condition.
“To put any mistakes on ADD is ridiculous in my mind,” Kinsler said recently. “Yes, I wear my emotions on my sleeve a little bit during games, but everybody makes mistakes. What’s the excuse when someone else who isn’t on Adderall makes a mistake? To me, it’s just kind of weird to use that as an excuse.”
It would be easy to make that assumption, though. Three things have marked Kinsler’s five-season major league career: Amazing ability, a knack for getting hurt and the occasional seemingly careless mistake. It may be dropping the glove down below his eyes on a routine catch, which heightens the possibility of a drop. It may be a missed sign. Or he may seemingly fall into a trance on the base paths and run into outs.
“Focusing on the field has never really been a problem for me,” he said. “I always had a knack for thinking ahead, doing the little stuff. The only time it’s ever affected me on the field is between pitches. I’ve caught myself looking in the wrong place, but I catch myself quickly and get my focus back where it belongs. I’ve never been out there looking at butterflies or anything like that.”
To help with that, Kinsler takes Adderall, a prescription concentration-enhancing medication, a form of which is prescribed for most patients with ADD or ADHD. He’s been taking it in some form since the eighth grade when he was first diagnosed after seemingly failing to hear his parents or his teachers. He’d ignore requests from his father. Five minutes after a teacher asked him to stop talking in class, he’d be talking.
Adderrall, however, presents its own set of problems for the professional athlete. For one, it can significantly suppress appetite, which can leave a Major League player underweight and potentially increase the risk for injury. For another, well, it is technically a banned substance.
It’s why his junior college AD and minor league executives suspected Kinsler might have a drug problem. He was flunking drug tests.
Adderall falls in the stimulant class along with amphetamines. As amphetamines started becoming passé pick-me-ups in baseball clubhouses, ADD medication became a hot topic. Players suddenly started getting rather late-in-life diagnoses of ADD and showing up with prescriptions for Adderall.
Major League Baseball cracked down. Without receiving the clearance and monitoring of an MLB-approved doctor and filing for a Therapeutic Usage Exemption (TUE), the presence of Adderall in a urine test is grounds for a 50-game suspension. That’s what happened to Rangers pitching prospect Danny Guttierrez last year. He was taking the drug for ADD, but failed to apply for the TUE. As a result, he missed the first two months of this season.
And even for those diagnosed with ADD, there is a stigma attached that makes players uncomfortable discussing the disorder. Though club officials said Kinsler is not the only player dealing with ADD in the clubhouse, others decline to speak on the subject.
Perhaps there is shame over the condition or embarrassment over using a medication that falls under the class of “performance-enhancer.”
For Kinsler, the stigma problems faded long ago.
“I was upset about going to the doctor when I was a kid,” Kinsler said. “I didn’t want to see something as a problem. Now, my advice would be to tell people it’s OK to get help.”
What is ADHD? It is a diagnosis applied to children and adults who consistently display certain characteristic behaviors over a period of time. The most common core features include distractibility (poor sustained attention to tasks), impulsivity (impaired impulse control and delay of gratification) and hyperactivity (excessive activity and physical restlessness).
Who has ADHD? According to epidemiological data, approximately 4 to 6 percent of the U.S. population has ADHD. That is about 8 to 9 million adults. ADHD usually persists throughout a person’s lifetime. Approximately one-half to two-thirds of children with ADHD will continue to have significant problems with ADHD symptoms and behaviors as adults, which impacts their lives on the job, within the family, and in social relationships.
Source: Attention Deficit Disorder Association