Decision Making Under Fatigue

Thursday, December 15, 2011

During the 2011 season, a study was undertaken to examine the physical and cognitive demands of field umpiring in the NEAFL Eastern Conference.  The study was undertaken by the University of Newcastle and NEAFL field umpire Nathan Elsworthy.

The study provides results which may be useful for the future development of physical conditioning programs and may provide a basis for future research examining the efficacy of a cognitive training program of umpires.

The study found that across 7 NEAFL matches where 19 umpires (7 individuals) were analysed that:

  • Umpires covered 12,886 m during an entire match with 28% covered at high intensity (>14.4 kmh-1).
  • The average speed maintained throughout a match was 111 mmin-1 (6.5 kmh-1).
  • Decision making accuracy was 68% across the 7 matches.
  • The physical demands were greatest during the first quarter, and decisional accuracy was greatest during the third and fourth quarters. As such, it appears that there is an existing relationship between the physical exertion and the decisional accuracy of umpires.

The results from previous laboratory based research studies suggest that initially decision making performance is reduced with low physical exertion, however as exercise intensity increases, decision making accuracy is improved, before a decline in performance with further increases in intensity.

The fact that these studies have identified a relationship between exercise intensity and cognitive performance may explain the decreased decision making accuracy during the early stages when physical demands are high.

In practical terms, the study should encourage umpire coaches to consider the level of intensity their umpires are training at and challenge their umpires to maintain consistency in decision making despite working under fatigue.  Umpires need to work hard to reach the correct positions during matches and training and train themselves to maintain focus whilst fatigued.

Download the report into the Physical Demands of Field Umpires in the North Eastern Australian Football League 


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