Mental Fatigue in Football

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𝗜𝗡𝗧𝗥𝗢𝗗𝗨𝗖𝗧𝗜𝗢𝗡: Mental fatigue is a psychobiological state experienced following exposure to cognitively demanding tasks. Anecdotal evidence shows that mental fatigue can impair football (soccer) performance based on the cognitive demands of match play, fixture congestion, receiving high volumes of tactical information and internal and external pressures to succeed. In six original investigations, induced mental fatigue has negatively influenced football specific skill, physical, tactical and decision-making performance. However, these studies share consistent limitations, which include the use of cognitive tasks with low ecological validity to induce mental fatigue, as well as the recruitment of sub-elite or recreational players. Further research is required to address the limitations of the current research, investigate the relevance of current methods employed to induce mental fatigue, and to understand the true cognitive demands experienced by elite level football players. Therefore the aims of this thesis were as follows: i) to evaluate the applicability of the current mental fatigue research to elite football settings, ii) understand the relevance of the modified Stroop task in inducing mental fatigue, plus its impact on using implicit and explicit information, and iii) use a mixed methods approach to elucidate cognitive demands and influence on performance in elite male, female and academy football players. 𝗠𝗘𝗧𝗛𝗢𝗗𝗦: i) A literature review was conducted to understand the collective impact of induced mental fatigue on football specific performance. ii) A current opinion article critically examined the methodology of the current mental fatigue in football research, with recommendations provided for future study designs. iii) The modified Stroop task was assessed for its impact on using implicit and explicit cues, plus boredom, a construct similar to the demands of mental fatigue. In addition, the impact of a brief rest period from cognitively demanding activity was measured. iv) English Football League and National League players completed an online survey which investigated the impact of football and lifestyle specific cognitive activities on perceived mental fatigue and impact on performance. v) An additional survey was completed by elite English academy football players (U14 – U23) which explored the effects of football and adolescent specific activities on perceived mental fatigue and impact on performance. vi) Focus group interviews explored the psychological demands of elite female football […]
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