Mental Fatigue Over 2 Elite Netball Seasons: A Case for Mental Fatigue to be Included in Athlete Self-Report Measures

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose: Mental fatigue is emerging as an important consideration for elite sporting performance, yet it is rarely monitored. The present study assessed changes in mental fatigue in professional team-sport athletes across 2 seasons and examined the relationship between mental fatigue and other athlete self-report measures of well-being. Methods: Elite netballers contracted to all teams competing in Australia’s premier professional netball competition during the 2018 and 2019 seasons (N = 154) participated. Using 5-point Likert scales, mental fatigue, fatigue (physical), tiredness, sleep quality, stress, mood, and motivation were assessed daily across 2 seasons composed of 14 round and finals series. Results: The ratings of mental fatigue significantly changed during both seasons. In 2018, lower ratings of mental fatigue were reported in round 1 versus 3, 4, 6, 8, and 14; round 7 versus 6; and round 6 versus 10 (P < .05). In 2019, lower ratings of mental fatigue were identified for round 1 versus 3, 9, 10 to 14, and semifinal; round 2 versus 10 to 13; and 5 versus 10 to 12 (P < .05). Ordinal regression revealed significant differences between mental fatigue and physical fatigue (P < .001), tiredness (P < .001), stress (P < .001), mood (P < .001), and motivation (P < .05). Conclusions: The present study found mental fatigue to significantly fluctuate across a season in elite netballers. Moreover, perceived mental fatigue differed from physical fatigue, tiredness, stress, mood, and motivation. The data impress the need for mental fatigue to be included as an independent measure of athlete well-being. Monitoring of mental fatigue can allow practitioners to implement strategies to manage its influence on performance.

Russell and Connick are with the School of Human Movement & Nutrition Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia. Russell is also with the Queensland Academy of Sport, Nathan, QLD, Australia. Jenkins is with the School of Health and Sport Sciences, University of the Sunshine Coast, QLD, Australia. Halson is with the School of Behavioural and Health Sciences, Australian Catholic University, McAuley at Banyo, QLD, Australia. Juliff is with Netball Australia, High-Performance Unit, Melbourne, VIC, Australia. Kelly is with the School of Exercise & Nutrition Sciences, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.

Russell (suzanna.russell@uqconnect.edu.au) is corresponding author.
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