Mental Fatigue and Sport‐Specific Psychomotor Performance: A Systematic Review


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Habay, J., Van Cutsem, J., Verschueren, J., De Bock, S., Proost, M., De Wachter, J., Tassignon, B., Meeusen, R., & Roelands, B. (2021). Mental Fatigue and Sport-Specific Psychomotor Performance: A Systematic Review. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 51(7), 1527–1548.


Background Mental fatigue (MF) is a psychobiological state that impairs endurance performance in healthy athletes. Recently, multiple studies indicated that MF could also impair sport-specific psychomotor performance (SSPP). Neverthe- less, a systematic overview detailing the effects of MF on SSPP is currently lacking.
Objective The objective of this study is to collate relevant literature and examine the effect of MF on SSPP. A secondary aim was to create an overview of the potential subjective and physiological factors underlying this MF effect.

Methods PubMed (MEDLINE), Web of Science, PsycINFO and SPORTDiscus were searched (5th of November 2020). Studies were eligible when study outcomes encompassed any form of SSPP skill in a sport-specific context, the intervention was targeted to induce MF, and the population included healthy individuals. The presence of a manipulation check, to indicate the successful induction of MF, was obligatory for inclusion. Secondary outcomes were all outcomes (either physiological or psychological) that could explain the underlying mechanisms of the effect of MF on SSPP.

Results In total, 21 papers were included. MF was successfully induced in all but two studies, which were excluded from further analysis. MF negatively impacts a myriad of SSPP outcomes, including decision-making, reaction time and accuracy outcomes. No changes in physiological outcomes, that could underlie the effect of MF, were reported. Subjectively, only ratings of perceived of exertion increased due to MF in some studies.

Conclusions Overall, the selected papers indicated that MF negatively affects SSPP. Research that assesses brain function, while evaluating the effect of MF on SSPP is essential to create further insight.