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Mental Fatigue Impairs Soccer-Specific Physical and Technical Performance

Mitchell R Smith, Aaron J Coutts, Michele Merlini, Dieter Deprez, Matthieu Lenoir, Samuele M Marcora
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2016, 48 (2): 267-76
26312616

PURPOSE: To investigate the effects of mental fatigue on soccer-specific physical and technical performance.

METHODS: This investigation consisted of two separate studies. Study 1 assessed the soccer-specific physical performance of 12 moderately trained soccer players using the Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test, Level 1 (Yo-Yo IR1). Study 2 assessed the soccer-specific technical performance of 14 experienced soccer players using the Loughborough Soccer Passing and Shooting Tests (LSPT, LSST). Each test was performed on two occasions and preceded, in a randomized, counterbalanced order, by 30 min of the Stroop task (mentally fatiguing treatment) or 30 min of reading magazines (control treatment). Subjective ratings of mental fatigue were measured before and after treatment, and mental effort and motivation were measured after treatment. Distance run, heart rate, and ratings of perceived exertion were recorded during the Yo-Yo IR1. LSPT performance time was calculated as original time plus penalty time. LSST performance was assessed using shot speed, shot accuracy, and shot sequence time.

RESULTS: Subjective ratings of mental fatigue and effort were higher after the Stroop task in both studies (P < 0.001), whereas motivation was similar between conditions. This mental fatigue significantly reduced running distance in the Yo-Yo IR1 (P < 0.001). No difference in heart rate existed between conditions, whereas ratings of perceived exertion were significantly higher at iso-time in the mental fatigue condition (P < 0.01). LSPT original time and performance time were not different between conditions; however, penalty time significantly increased in the mental fatigue condition (P = 0.015). Mental fatigue also impaired shot speed (P = 0.024) and accuracy (P < 0.01), whereas shot sequence time was similar between conditions.

CONCLUSIONS: Mental fatigue impairs soccer-specific running, passing, and shooting performance.

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