Sports Medicine

Study on the effects of travel across several time zones on football performance concludes

Tokyo: The Asian Football Confederation held a consensus meeting on the effects of travel across several time zones on football performance in Tokyo, Japan on Monday.

The seven-member panel of experts, chaired by AFC Medical Committee Chairperson Dato’ Dr Gurcharan Singh, deliberated at the Japan Institute of Sports Sciences on several key issues, especially the effects of sleep deprivation, jet lag, injury, illness and acclimatisation on football performance and preventive measures that can be introduced to cope with these effects.

The AFC Competitions Division provided information on the tight calendar schedule of matches where teams, players need to cope with travel across several time zones for international competition and returning to participate in home league matches. One such example was the Australian national team's participation in their first Asian Zone, FIFA World Cup Qualifiers 2010.  

Below is the example of matches and travel distances from the first World Cup Qualifiers after Australia joined the AFC.

**Consecutive FIFA Match days used in WCQ R4** **Distance/travel time** **Time difference**
6 June 2009 / MD 8 Qatar v Australia in QAT 10 June 2009 / MD 9 Australia v Bahrain in AUS 12,500 km + 7 hrs
28 March 2009 / MD 6 Uzbekistan v Qatar in UZB 1 April 2009 / MD 7 Australia v Uzbekistan in AUS 12,000 km + 5 hrs

"However, even with all possible permutations calculated in advance, the issue still remains unsolved as it is not mathematically possible to avoid travel and time difference effects completely with the current international match calendar and geographical location of Australia,” said Avaz Berdikulov, Head of National Team Competitions.

FIFA Chief Human Resources & Services Officer, Dr. Martin J. Vaso, shared his insights on strategies to cope with the challenges of teams travelling across several time zones.

Intervention strategies and appropriate use of medications were discussed at length by Dr. Peter Fowler (ASpetar), Prof. Greg Dupont (UEFA) and Prof. Greg (Australia).

"Long-haul travel reduces physical performance related to football and increases illness risk, particularly due to poor sleep," said Dr Peter Fowler, who has worked with English Premier League club Tottenham Hostpur.

Deputy Chairperson, Dr. Michiko Dohi, spoke about her experiences as Team Physician of national teams during international competitions and the challenge of introducing interventional programs to fight jet lag and sleep deprivation among Japanese players.

The study concluded that teams travelling across more than five time zones do impact football participation. 

Photo: AFC