Levels of stress among soccer players highlights need for monitoring

Metrifit Athlete Monitoring System

Stressed soccer player

Stress is a reaction by the body and brain to some challenge or threat, good or bad experiences. When you are stressed by something, your body reacts by releasing chemicals into your blood. There are two types of stress, one is positive and the other is negative and can directly affect your performance

The issue of stress in elite sport is an area that quite rightly has gained a lot of attention in recent times. The pressures of dealing with competition, high expectations, injuries and all the challenges that go along with sport at the top level are issues an athlete has to deal with on a daily basis. One of the problems with stress is that it can have a detrimental effect on performance and that is why it is important for coaches and athletes to keep track of those levels. Of course a certain amount of stress can be good as we have all heard about the athletes who ‘thrive under pressure’ but the problem is that when those stress levels get too high, they have a negative effect on performance.

Does stress really affect performance?

The answer to this question is a most definite yes and just how this happens is outlined by Dr Joseph Mercola in 10 Ways Stress Can Mess with Your Workouts who identifies the following effects of stress:-

  • Impairs Working Memory
  • Sabotages Concentration
  • Impairs Motor Coordination
  • Compromises Visual Acuity
  • Hampers Your Fitness Gains
  • Slows Exercise Recovery
  • Raises Your Risk for Injury
  • Seriously Impedes Weight Loss
  • Kills Motivation
  • Depletes Emotional Resources

Clearly any one item on this list has the potential to severely hamper performance level and this is why the issue must be taken seriously.

Do athletes really suffer from stress?

Once again the answer is a definite yes. There may be a temptation to think that highly trained and focused athletes can generally cope with stress and that only a very small fraction are affected to the level where it impairs performance. That idea can be easily dismissed by a recent study illustrating that one in four professional footballers suffer from levels of stress that can have an adverse effect on their game. In the study carried out by FIFPro, the world players union, it was concluded that more than one quarter of professional soccer players said they suffered from depression or anxiety. The research pointed out that

symptoms relating to depression and anxiety are highly prevalent among professional footballers

  • 26% reported suffering from depression or anxiety and adverse nutritional behaviour
  • 19% reported adverse alcohol behaviour
  • 3% said they had low self esteem
  • 7% said they were smoking
  • 5% reported “signs of burnout”

An illustration of the effect of stress

A practical illustration of how stress can affect an athlete is provided in a study in Cognitive fatigue effects on physical performance during running in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology. This research found that stress had a significant impact on physical performance. Runners were intentionally stressed by being forced to complete a difficult computer test immediately before a 1.86-mile race (3,000-meters). The race times for runners who had taken the test were about 15 seconds slower than for the runners who hadn’t taken it.

The importance of monitoring stress

Therefore when you combine the research that shows levels of stress in one particular sport along with the negative impact it can have, then it becomes clear how important it is to monitor stress levels in an athlete and to manage stress effectively.
The effects of stress on athletic performance reminds us that positive stress will increase performance level but it is vital that this does not become too much.

Nothing separates the positive and negative stress. When the level of stress increases the level of performance also increases, but when it reaches a point of excessive stress, it becomes negative to the body and thus, the level of performance will instantly decrease and the athlete will start feeling fatigue and may end up exhausted. It may also cause illness or breakdown. The athlete won’t feel the enthusiasm and his productivity will decline

Therefore, knowing when an athlete is being affected by stress is hugely important for a coach. Discovering if an athlete stress levels are becoming a burden can allow the coaching team to identify the source and take actions to solve the problem. This ensures the athlete is in the best possible condition to train and perform, and allows them the best opportunity to succeed.

Metrifit provides a simple and effective method for athletes to record their stress as part of its athlete monitoring package. Stress levels are part of the daily well being questionnaire included in Metrifit and when an athlete indicates stress levels are up they are asked to provide additional information to help coaches and staff determine how they should respond to that information. Metrifit’s daily traffic light report will indicate what issues athletes are having and who warrants a follow up. The analytics provided by Metrifit will also look for deviation from normal patterns at the individual level across many variables including stress.




The effects of stress on athletic performance

10 Ways Stress Can Mess with Your Workouts by Dr. Joseph Mercola

Cognitive fatigue effects on physical performance during running by MacMahon C, Schücker L, Hagemann N, Strauss B

Stress and Anxiety in Athletics by: Carly M. Fullerton

The effects of stress on academic and athletic performance | Metrifit


1 in 4 pro soccer players suffer symptoms of anxiety, depression

Pro footballers are prone to depression