JOURNAL ARTICLE

Differences in ball sports athletes speed discrimination skills before and after exercise induced fatigue

Kaivo Thomson, Anthony P Watt, Jarmo Liukkonen
Journal of Sports Science & Medicine 2009, 8 (2): 259-64
24149535
Substantial research exists in relation to the effect of fatigue on the cognitive skills of athletes. Very few studies in the sport domain, however, have investigated decision-making time and accuracy in relation to the discrimination of the speed of a moving object following exercise at maximal intensity. The purpose of this study was to examine differences in the pre- and post-fatigue speed discrimination skills of elite ballgames athletes to determine if they prioritize accuracy or speed of decision-making when physically exhausted. The participants in the study were 163 males (M = 21.17, SD = 4.18) Estonian national level soccer (n = 79), basketball (n = 63) and volleyball (n = 21) players. Peak oxygen uptake (VO2max) was assessed during completion of an incremental exercise test on a treadmill. Speed discrimination stimuli were images of red square-shapes on a grey background presented moving along the sagittal axis at four different virtual velocities on a computer (PC) screen. Repeated measures MANOVA revealed a significant main effect for the decision-making time factor. A second MANOVA revealed a significant main effect for the decision-making accuracy factor. The soccer group made a significantly lower number of errors than the basketball group (p = 0.015) in pre- and post-fatigue decision-making accuracy. The results showed that athletes' decision-making time decreased and decision-making errors increased after a maximal aerobic capacity exercise task. A comparison of the pre- and post-fatigue speed discrimination skills of experienced basketball, volleyball and soccer players indicated that the only significant difference was for decision-making accuracy between the soccer and basketball groups. The current findings clearly demonstrated that the athletes made decisions faster at the expense of accuracy when fatigued. Key pointsThe purpose of this study was to examine differences in the pre- and post-fatigue speed discrimination skills of elite ballgames athletes to determine if they prioritize accuracy or speed of decision-making when physically exhausted.Speed discrimination stimuli were images of red square-shapes on a grey background presented moving along the sagittal axis at four different virtual velocities on a computer (PC) screen that represented the frontal plane.The participants exercised on a treadmill to level of 100% of peak oxygen uptake (VO2max).Repeated measures MANOVA revealed significant main effects for both the decision-making time and accuracy factors. The current findings clearly demonstrated that the athletes made decisions faster but with greater errors when fatigued.Post hoc analyses of the differences between the ball game sport groups indicated that soccer group participants reported a significantly lower number of errors than the basketball group (p = .015) in pre- and post-fatigue decision-making accuracy.Further investigations are required to clarify the equivocal set of previous findings regarding the relationship between the cognitive function of athletes at varying physical workload intensities.

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