Research Article: The use of a functional test battery as a non-invasive method of fatigue assessment

Date Published: February 28, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Steven Hughes, Dale W. Chapman, G. Gregory Haff, Sophia Nimphius, Stephen E. Alway.


To assess whether a battery of performance markers, both individually and as group, would be sensitive to fatigue, a within group random cross-over design compared multiple variables during seated control and fatigue (repeated sprint cycling) conditions. Thirty-two physically active participants completed a neuromuscular fatigue questionnaire, Stroop task, postural sway, squat jump, countermovement jump, isometric mid-thigh pull and 10 s maximal sprint cycle (Sprintmax) before and after each condition (15 min, 1 h, 24 h and 48 h). In comparison to control, larger neuromuscular fatigue questionnaire total score decrements were observed 15 min (5.20 ± 4.6), 1 h (3.33 ± 3.9) and 24 h (1.83 ± 4.8) after cycling. Similarly, the fatigue condition elicited greater declines than control at 15 min and 1 h post in countermovement jump height (1.67 ± 1.90 cm and 1.04 ± 2.10 cm), flight time-contraction time ratio (0.03 ± 0.06 and 0.05 ± 0.11), and velocity (0.06 ± 0.07 m∙s-1 and 0.04 ± 0.08 m∙s-1). After fatigue, decrements were observed up to 48 h for average Sprintmax cadence (4–6 RPM), up to 24 h in peak Sprintmax cadence (2–5 RPM) and up to 1 h in average and peak Sprintmax power (45 ± 60 W and 58 ± 71 W). Modelling variables in a stepwise regression demonstrated that CMJ height explained 53.2% and 51.7% of 24 h and 48 h Sprintmax average power output. Based upon these data, the fatigue induced by repeated sprint cycling coincided with changes in the perception of fatigue and markers of performance during countermovement and squat jumps. Furthermore, multiple regression modelling revealed that a single variable (countermovement jump height) explained average power output.

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The ability to effectively monitor fatigue is highly sought after by coaches and exercise scientists of elite athletes. Classically, neuromuscular fatigue has been defined as an acute reduction in task performance which includes both an increased perceived effort to exert force as well as an eventual inability to produce force [1]. In sport, fatigue would manifest as a reduction in the ability to perform the desired movement, exercise, or skill and may encompass metabolic and/or neuromuscular and/or cognitive fatigue. In high performance sport a number of performance markers are often used to assess fatigue such as perceptual questionnaires [2, 3], jump tests [2, 4], maximal and submaximal sprints [2], heart rate variables [2, 3], hormone levels [5] and postural sway measurements [4].

A within group random cross-over design was used to compare the fatigue test battery across multiple time points and assess the sensitivity of performance markers to a randomly assigned seated control and repeated sprint cycle exercise condition.

One participant was removed due to competitive sport participation <24 h before baseline resulting in 31 participants. Due to equipment malfunction, data for a single subject was not collected for NFQ (1 time point) and Sprintmax (2 time points). Participants consumed all meals and consumption of Gatorade was consistent for each participant across sessions. The mean power decrement between the first sprint in the fatigue inducement cycle and subsequent set averages were 25%, 29% and 29% for set 2, 3 and 4. Our purpose was to assess whether a range of individual performance tests would be suitably sensitive to detect changes in Sprintmax performance up to 48 h after a fatigue inducing high intensity sprint cycle protocol and to assess whether individually or as a battery, these performance markers would explain the reduced performance in Sprintmax at these time points. This analysis was conducted with the intent of possibly creating a simple and practically relevant tool that could be used to determine when an athlete or a patient was ready to cope with their next training (exercise) stimulus.   Source:


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