Although a large body of evidence exists documenting the ergogenic properties of caffeine, most studies have focused on endurance performance. However, findings from endurance sports cannot be generalized to performance in ball games where, apart from having a high level of endurance, successful athletic performances require a combination of physiological, technical and cognitive capabilities. The purpose of this review was to critically evaluate studies that have examined the effect of a single dose of caffeine in isolation on one or more of the following performance measures: total distance, sprint performance, agility, vertical jump performance and accuracy in ball games. Searches of three major databases resulted in 19 studies (invasion games: 13; net-barrier games: 6) that evaluated the acute effects of caffeine on human participants, provided the caffeine dose administered, and included a ball games specific task or simulated match. Improvements in sprint performance were observed in 8 of 10 studies (80%), and vertical jump in 7 of 8 studies (88%). Equivocal results were reported for distance covered, agility and accuracy. Minor side effects were reported in 4 of 19 studies reviewed. Pre-exercise caffeine ingestion between 3.0 and 6.0 mg/kg of body mass appears to be a safe ergogenic aid for athletes in ball games. However, the efficacy of caffeine varies depending on various factors, including, but not limited to, the nature of the game, physical status and caffeine habituation. More research is warranted to clarify the effects of caffeine on performance measures unique to ball games, such as agility and accuracy. It is essential that athletes, coaches and practitioners evaluate the risk-benefit ratio of caffeine ingestion strategies on an individual case-by-case basis.
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Jingyi Shannon Chia is supported by the National Institute of Education (NIE) Research Scholarship and the Institute for Sports Research at Nanyang Technological University. No other sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article.
Conflict of interest
Jingyi Shannon Chia, Laura Barrett, Jia Yi Chow and Stephen Burns declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review.
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Chia, J.S., Barrett, L.A., Chow, J.Y. et al. Effects of Caffeine Supplementation on Performance in Ball Games. Sports Med 47, 2453–2471 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-017-0763-6