Fatigue-induced balance impairments in young soccer players
Pau M., Ibba G., Attene G. Journal of Athletic Training. 2014;49(4):454-461
Take Home Message: Soccer players have impaired postural control after a fatigue-inducing task. The single-leg balance impairment was related to repeated sprint ability performance, which suggests that an athlete who was less fatigued by a sprinting task had less balance impairment.
When an athlete becomes fatigued his/her balance may be compromised; however, we don’t know how much fatigue influences balance among young soccer players and if changes in balance influence performance. Therefore, the authors investigated the effect of fatigue on changes in balance during unipedal and bipedal static stances as well as whether there is a relationship between performance in a fatiguing activity and balance among young soccer athletes. Twenty-one male soccer players (~14.5 years of age) from 2 teams in Italy participated in a fatigue-inducing task, which consisted of repeated sprints (6 repetitions of maximal 2- X 15-m shuttle sprints with 20 second rest periods). The players also completed balance testing before and after the fatigue-inducing task. The balance tasks consisted of 4 randomized conditions: bipedal eyes open and closed, and unipedal right and left limb, both with eyes open. The authors assessed fatigue-induced postural sway, center of pressure (the average distance the center of pressure moved during the balance trial), and center of pressure velocity (the velocity at which the center of pressure moved) compared with baseline postural measurements. The authors found that soccer players performed bipedal and unipedal balance worse following the fatigue-inducing task in both legs. Fatigue may have had a greater impact on the player’s balance when he stood on the kicking leg. The authors also found that the more fatigued a player was the more his balance on his non-kicking leg was impaired.
This study is important because the authors illustrate that a young soccer player’s postural control is reduced due to fatigue the same way fatigue influences balance in adults. The authors also demonstrated a relationship between the amount of fatigue and balance, which suggests that the more fatigued an athlete was the more his unipedal balance was impaired. It will be interesting to follow-up on this finding to determine if improving an athlete’s endurance may help prevent a decline in postural control after running. Further research also needs to determine how fatigued a young soccer athlete must be before balance is impaired. Medical personnel and coaches should be aware that balance is impaired during a fatigued state and determine if further training or precautions (e.g., removing a fatigued player from the game) are necessary to decrease injury risk. It will be helpful to see whether better conditioning can help avoid balance impairments after a tiring task and which programs may be most effective. In the meantime, we should continue to promote endurance and balance training since the risks are low and the possible rewards could be great.
Questions for Discussion: Should we start balance training at a younger age? Do you think better balance could lead to a decrease in lower extremity injuries?
Written by: Jane McDevitt, PhD
Reviewed by: Jeff Driban
Related Posts:Pau, M., Ibba, G., & Attene, G. (2014). Fatigue-Induced Balance Impairment in Young Soccer Players Journal of Athletic Training, 49 (4), 454-461 DOI: 10.4085/1062-6050-49.2.12