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Peter Fowler, Rob Duffield and Joanna Vaile

The current study examined the effects of short-haul air travel on competition performance and subsequent recovery. Six male professional Australian football (soccer) players were recruited to participate in the study. Data were collected from 12 matches, which included 6 home and away matches against the same 4 teams. Together with the outcome of each match, data were obtained for team technical and tactical performance indicators and individual player-movement patterns. Furthermore, sleep quantity and quality, hydration, and perceptual fatigue were measured 2 days before, the day of, and 2 days after each match. More competition points were accumulated (P > .05, d = 1.10) and fewer goals were conceded (P > .05, d = 0.93) in home than in away matches. Furthermore, more shots on goal (P > .05, d = 1.17) and corners (P > .05, d = 1.45) and fewer opposition shots on goal (P > .05, d = 1.18) and corners (P < .05, d = 2.32) occurred, alongside reduced total distance covered (P > .05, d = 1.19) and low-intensity activity (P < .05, d = 2.25) during home than during away matches. However, while oxygen saturation was significantly lower during than before and after outbound and return travel (P < .01), equivocal differences in sleep quantity and quality, hydration, and perceptual fatigue were observed before and after competition away compared with home. These results suggest that, compared with short-haul air travel, factors including situational variables, territoriality, tactics, and athlete psychological state are more important in determining match outcome. Furthermore, despite the potential for disrupted recovery patterns, return travel did not impede player recovery or perceived readiness to train.

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Peter Fowler, Rob Duffield, Adam Waterson and Joanna Vaile

The current study examined the acute and longitudinal effects of regular away travel on training load (TL), player wellness, and injury surrounding competitive football (soccer) matches. Eighteen male professional football players, representing a team competing in the highest national competition in Australia, volunteered to participate in the study. Training loads, player wellness and injury incidence, rate, severity, and type, together with the activity at the time of injury, were recorded on the day before, the day of, and for 4 d after each of the 27 matches of the 2012−13 season. This included 14 home and 13 away matches, further subdivided based on the midpoint of the season into early (1−13) and late competition (14−27) phases. While TLs were significantly greater on day 3 at home compared with away during the early competition phase (P = .03), no other significant effects of match location were identified (P > .05). Total TL and mean wellness over the 6 d surrounding matches and TL on day 3 were significantly reduced during the late compared with the early competition phase at home and away (P < .05). Although not significantly (P > .05), training missed due to injury was 60% and 50% greater during the late than during the early competition phase at home and away, respectively. In conclusion, no significant interactions between match location and competition phase were evident during the late competition phase, which suggests that away travel had negligible cumulative effects on the reduction in player wellness in the latter half of the season.

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Peter Fowler, Rob Duffield, Kieran Howle, Adam Waterson and Joanna Vaile

The current study examined the effects of 10-h northbound air travel across 1 time zone on sleep quantity, together with subjective jet lag and wellness ratings, in 16 male professional Australian football (soccer) players. Player wellness was measured throughout the week before (home training week) and the week of (away travel week) travel from Australia to Japan for a preseason tour. Sleep quantity and subjective jet lag were measured 2 d before (Pre 1 and 2), the day of, and for 5 d after travel (Post 1–5). Sleep duration was significantly reduced during the night before travel (Pre 1; 4.9 [4.2−5.6] h) and night of competition (Post 2; 4.2 [3.7−4.7] h) compared with every other night (P < .01, d > 0.90). Moreover, compared with the day before travel, subjective jet lag was significantly greater for the 5 d after travel (P < .05, d > 0.90), and player wellness was significantly lower 1 d postmatch (Post 3) than at all other time points (P < .05, d > 0.90). Results from the current study suggest that sleep disruption, as a result of an early travel departure time (8 PM) and evening match (7:30 PM), and fatigue induced by competition had a greater effect on wellness ratings than long-haul air travel with a minimal time-zone change. Furthermore, subjective jet lag may have been misinterpreted as fatigue from sleep disruption and competition, especially by the less experienced players. Therefore, northbound air travel across 1 time zone from Australia to Asia appears to have negligible effects on player preparedness for subsequent training and competition.