Monitoring Fatigue Status in Elite Team-Sport Athletes: Implications for Practice

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance

The increase in competition demands in elite team sports over recent years has prompted much attention from researchers and practitioners to the monitoring of adaptation and fatigue in athletes. Monitoring fatigue and gaining an understanding of athlete status may also provide insights and beneficial information pertaining to player availability, injury, and illness risk. Traditional methods used to quantify recovery and fatigue in team sports, such as maximal physical-performance assessments, may not be feasible to detect variations in fatigue status throughout competitive periods. Faster, simpler, and nonexhaustive tests such as athlete self-report measures, autonomic nervous system response via heart-rate-derived indices, and to a lesser extent, jump protocols may serve as promising tools to quantify and establish fatigue status in elite team-sport athletes. The robust rationalization and precise detection of a meaningful fluctuation in these measures are of paramount importance for practitioners working alongside athletes and coaches on a daily basis. There are various methods for arriving at a minimal clinically important difference, but these have been rarely adopted by sport scientists and practitioners. The implementation of appropriate, reliable, and sensitive measures of fatigue can provide important information to key stakeholders in team-sport environments. Future research is required to investigate the sensitivity of these tools to fundamental indicators such as performance, injury, and illness.

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Thorpe is with the Medicine and Science Dept, Manchester United, Manchester, UK. Atkinson is with the Health and Social Care Inst, Teesside University, Teesside, UK. Drust and Gregson are with the Research Inst for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK.

Address author correspondence to Robin Thorpe at