Mental fatigue in AFL players

Any casual athlete – from weekend joggers to commuting cyclists – understands the effects physical fatigue. How it can lead to the slowing of movement and general tiredness. But what about the effect of mental fatigue?

A La Trobe University team, including La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science researcher Dr Nivan Weerakkody and Dr Carolyn Taylor from the La Trobe Rural Health School, recently published a study in the Journal of Medicine and Sport focussing on the effects of mental fatigue on AFL players.

And the results strongly indicate that mental fatigue has a detrimental influence on the skills required to compete at their highest level. Dr Weerakkody makes the argument that AFL is a complex game, requiring a high degree of physical and cognitive demands.

Conversely, the La Trobe research team found that mental fatigue had little impact on agility skills like jumping and sprinting. Dr Weerakkody believes that the short duration of these skills may require less mental effort to complete, but that more research was required to uncover the reasons behind the difference.

The findings have implications for Australian Football players who are required to sustain attention and concentration for prolonged periods before and during matches.

Dr Weerakkody remarks that, “Participation in Australian Rules football is growing, especially amongst females. Research on understanding the effects of mental fatigue in the sport has wider implications on developing new strategies to potentially improve performance and reduce the incidence of injury.  These are interesting possibilities to explore for all level of athletes and coaches.”

Where to next for this research? The La Trobe University research team plans on furthering the study by investigating what happens before and during actual games, in terms of the level of outside pressures, team dynamics, and even the level of instructions provided to players.

Read more about this research in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.

You can find out more about studying at the School of Molecular Sciences or the La Trobe Rural Health School at La Trobe University.