Football players face not only physical fatigue but also mental fatigue during games, and resilience to mental fatigue is a crucial skill for professional players. Mental fatigue is defined as a state of tiredness and lack of energy induced by prolonged periods of cognitive activity. Although several studies have investigated the impact of mental fatigue on football players' performance, little research has focused on how to improve players' resilience to this type of fatigue.
A recent review suggested that brain endurance training (BET) could be a long-term strategy to tackle mental fatigue. BET was developed by Samuele Marcora for endurance sports, and involves executing several cognitive tasks that are known to elicit mental fatigue. In a recent study, Walter Staiano from the University of Valencia examined the effect of BET on the physical, cognitive, and multitasking performance of elite football players.
The study involved 22 elite football players from the third division in Italy, with half performing BET during a 4-week pre-season training period. The program consisted of a 20-30 minute cognitive task completed after the last daily physical training session. The results showed that BET increased the perceived mental demand of the pre-season training period by 28% compared with the control group. No differences were found between groups for the perceived physical demand or the heart rate-based training load.
Before and after the pre-season, players performed a test battery to measure their physical, cognitive, and multitasking performance. The BET group performed, on average, better than the control group during the post-test for all components. The difference in physical performance was mainly explained by a better resilience to overreaching, while in terms of cognitive performance, differences were found when the players performed cognitive tasks after a series of physical efforts. BET also improved players' ability to keep their mental focus in a fatigued state, as shown by the results of the multitasks, which consisted of football-specific reactions and repeated sprint ability tasks.
The study provides initial evidence for the utility of BET in the context of football. While acute countermeasures such as caffeine are commonly used by players, long-term strategies such as BET should be further explored and tested. BET was well tolerated by the players in the study, indicating that it may fit within current professional training environments.
In conclusion, BET may be a promising long-term strategy to improve players' resilience to mental fatigue, and could potentially enhance physical, cognitive, and multitasking performance. Further research is needed to fully understand the potential of BET in the context of football, but the initial results are encouraging.
🧠 Mental fatigue is a common issue faced by football players during games, caused by prolonged periods of cognitive activity.
🏋️ Resilience to mental fatigue is an essential skill for professional football players.
📊 A recent study involving 22 elite football players showed that BET increased perceived mental demand and improved physical, cognitive, and multitasking performance.
🏃♂️ BET improved players' resilience to overreaching, cognitive tasks after physical efforts, and ability to maintain mental focus in a fatigued state.
👍 BET was well tolerated by players and may fit within current professional training environments.
💡 BET shows promise as a long-term strategy to improve resilience to mental fatigue and enhance physical, cognitive, and multitasking performance in football players.