Sports Medicine

, Volume 49, Issue 2, pp 177–183 | Cite as

Mental Fatigue in Football: Is it Time to Shift the Goalposts? An Evaluation of the Current Methodology

  • Chris J. ThompsonEmail author
  • Job Fransen
  • Sabrina Skorski
  • Mitchell R. Smith
  • Tim Meyer
  • Steve Barrett
  • Aaron J. Coutts
Current Opinion


Research in football for a long time has focused on the physical nature of fatigue as opposed to its mental aspects. However, since 2016, six original articles have investigated the effects of induced mental fatigue in football on isolated physical, skill and decision-making performance tests, along with physical, technical and tactical performance outcomes in small-sided games. Whilst these studies have overall shown a negative impact of mental fatigue on task performance, this current opinion aims to critically examine the methodological approach to this problem, most notably the lack of ecological validity when inducing mental fatigue and the present approach to measuring mental fatigue using visual analogue scales (VAS). It is suggested that future research on mental fatigue in football may benefit from the use of surveys/interviews to understand the true cognitive demands of elite football players. Additionally, future research should aim to reduce the reliance on using VAS to measure mental fatigue as results from this tool may be confounded by several response biases. In conclusion, this article highlights the need for mentally fatiguing tasks that adequately represent football-associated mental fatigue and assessments of mental fatigue that minimise the confounding effect of response bias.



The authors wish to thank Adam Beavan and Ruth Boat for editing and proofreading the article.

Compliance with Ethical Standards


No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article.

Conflict of interest

Chris J. Thompson, Job Fransen, Sabrina Skorski, Mitchell R. Smith, Tim Meyer, Steve Barrett and Aaron J. Coutts declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Sport and Preventive MedicineSaarland UniversitySaarbrückenGermany
  2. 2.Sport and Exercise Discipline Group, Faculty of HealthUniversity of Technology SydneyMoore ParkAustralia
  3. 3.Exercise and Sports Science, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of NewcastleOurimbahAustralia
  4. 4.Sports Medicine and Science DepartmentHull City FCKingston upon HullUK

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