American football teams play better at night due to circadian influences

14 Jun American football teams play better at night due to circadian influences

We are into week 15 of the 2018 NRL Premiership Season and this years’ format has seen Thursday, Friday and Saturday night games being played each week while retaining the regular Sunday afternoon match.  TV viewing deals and rights have no doubt caused the boost in evening games being played over the years however is there a performance impact of either playing in the day or night?

A recent study performed on American football teams has shown that a team would win more of its night games (starting at 8 or 9pm) than its afternoon games (starting at 1 or 4pm).  It is well documented that there is a natural circadian down shift in alertness in the afternoon each day and an upswing in the early evening.

While the study investigators were expecting the data to explain why more games were won at night, they were not expecting the result to be show the “largest influence would arise from mental errors in play and injury,” Brager says. “We grossly underestimated the impact that circadian rhythms have on risk for injury in athletes.”

The NFL teams used in this study span the East to West coast of America introducing time-zone changes and further potential for circadian disruption when traveling to play matches.  Australian NRL teams are on the east coast with the New Zealand warriors included, AFL teams do span the East to West coast of Australia and the time of day their matches are played may have an important role in the outcome of the winner.  Nevertheless, game organisers, coaches and trainers should take appropriate countermeasures to reduce the effect of the circadian effect on performance outcomes to minimise injury risk and to try and win more of their afternoon matches.

Is your team getting a tough draw this season?