Effects of football simulated fatigue on neuromuscular function and whole-body response to disturbances in balance

© 2018 John Wiley & Sons A/S. The effect of football-specific fatigue on explosive neuromuscular performance and dynamic balance has received little attention in the literature despite the potential consequences for injury risk. This study aimed to investigate the effect of fatigue induced by simulated football match play on maximal and explosive knee flexor (KF) and knee extensor (KE) torque, and thus the maximal and explosive KF/KE ratio, as well as the effect of fatigue induced by simulated football match play on whole-body response to disturbances in balance. Fifteen male team sports players (mean ± SD: age 24.2 ± 4.2 years; stature 1.79 ± 0.09 m; body mass, 77.3 ± 10.7 kg) underwent ~90 minutes of the modified Loughborough Intermittent Shuttle Test (LIST; fatiguing exercise condition) or seated rest (control condition) on separate days. Maximal and explosive isometric KF and KE voluntary torque (MVT/EVT) were assessed pre- and post-condition. Maximal and explosive KF/KE ratios were calculated. Center of mass (COM) response (displacement) to unexpected anterior and posterior platform perturbations were also assessed pre- and post-condition. Football simulated fatigue resulted in reduced KF (15%) and KE (12%) MVT (P ≤ 0.002) but was not found to reduce EVT of either muscle group, or explosive KF/KE ratio. Football simulated fatigue resulted in impaired balance response (11% increase in COM displacement) to unexpected perturbation in the posterior (P = 0.002) but not the anterior direction. Impaired response to dynamic disturbances in balance, rather than explosive torque or changes in muscle balance (H/Q ratios), may be a contributory factor toward increased injury risk in the latter portion of football games, and likely highlights the influence of fatigue on sensory/proprioceptive processes.