Mental fatigue and soccer performance
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NO FULL TEXT AVAILABLE. This thesis contains 3rd party copyright material. ----- Introduction: Physical and technical performance decline towards the end of soccer matches. This decline is often attributed to the physically fatiguing activity profile of soccer. It is possible that mental fatigue contributes to the observed reductions in performance, as soccer requires a high mental workload. However, the impact of mental fatigue on soccer performance remains unclear. Therefore, the primary aim of this thesis was to experimentally investigate the impact of mental fatigue on soccer performance in controlled and ecological settings. Five separate randomised crossover studies were conducted, and are reported in five separate manuscripts. Study 1: This investigation assessed the effects of three cognitive tasks on performance, psychological/subjective, and physiological indicators of mental fatigue, to determine the level and duration of mental fatigue induced by different tasks, and the most practical method of assessing mental fatigue. Results revealed that tasks requiring response inhibition induce mental fatigue for longer periods than simple vigilance tasks, and visual analogue scales are the most practical method of assessment. Study 2: This study investigated the effects of mental fatigue on soccer‐specific physical performance. Mental fatigue increased perception of effort, and reduced running distance in the Yo‐Yo Intermittent Recovery Test, Level 1 by 16%. Study 3: This study investigated the effects of mental fatigue on soccer‐specific technical performance. Mental fatigue reduced both speed and accuracy of shots on goal during the Loughborough Soccer Shooting Test, but had no impact on time to complete each shot sequence (manuscript 2). Mental fatigue had no impact on completion time of the Loughborough Soccer Passing Test, but did increase penalty time due to players committing more errors (manuscript 2). Closer analysis revealed that mental fatigue only impaired passing accuracy, with no significant effect on other ball control parameters (manuscript 3). Study 4: This investigation assessed the effects of mental fatigue on the soccer‐specific decision‐making ability of fourteen well‐trained soccer players. Mental fatigue reduced both speed and accuracy of decisions, but had minimal impact on visual search behaviour. Study 5: This study investigated the effects of mental fatigue on the soccer‐specific physical and technical performance of 20 well‐trained youth soccer players during 5 vs. 5 small‐sided games. Mental fatigue had an unclear effect on most physical performance variables, but impaired both offensive and defensive technical performance. Conclusion: Collectively, this thesis reveals the negative impact of mental fatigue on several factors contributing to successful soccer performance.
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