Perceptual-Cognitive Assessments in Football

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Common performance assessments in sport can range from either highly realistic environments (i.e. domain-specific, high ecological validity), to players sitting in front of a computer responding to various non-sport-specific information presented (i.e. domain-generic, low ecological validity). However, very few of these assessments are sufficiently validated. Therefore, the collection of aims within this dissertation was three-fold: i) to assess all high-level athletes from the academy to senior professional teams players in order to understand what cognitive abilities athletes exhibit, and what factors (i.e. environment and heritable) contributed towards their cognitive profile, ii) to track both domain-specific and domain-generic abilities longitudinally to understand their relationships with increased exposure to football training, and iii) to learn from the limitations of the domain-specific skills assessment and incorporate new technologies in order to gain a further insight to investigate how emerging technologies could help to develop more representative assessments. As the developmental trajectories of high-level football players’ domain-generic abilities reflected those observed in general populations’ despite long-term exposure to football-specific training and gameplay, this questions the relationship between high-level experience’s capacity to improve domain-generic abilities and challenges the validity of including non-sport specific assessments as a measure of football performance potential in high performing athletes.
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