Caffeine’s Impact on Decision-Making

Summary: A new study reveals that caffeine consumption can improve the accuracy of football passes, but it negatively affects players’ decision-making and tactical skills.

The study involved 12 young footballers who completed tasks measuring passing accuracy and decision-making, both with and without caffeine intake. While caffeine enhanced short and long pass accuracy, it reduced decision-making ability and performance in the Loughborough Soccer Passing Test, which assesses complex gameplay skills.

This study highlights the nuanced effects of caffeine on athletes and suggests that its impact varies based on the complexity of the task and the specific role of the player in the game.

Key Facts:

  1. Caffeine consumption improved pass accuracy by up to 13.48% but decreased decision-making skills by 7.14%.
  2. The study’s results were consistent across short pass accuracy but varied for long passes and complex tasks.
  3. The research underscores the importance of considering caffeine’s varied impacts on different aspects of football performance.

Source: Staffordshire University

Caffeine can have a negative impact on football players’ decision-making skills, new research shows.

A study by Staffordshire University and Shiraz University in Iran has found that while consuming caffeine before a game can improve the accuracy of football passes, it can have an adverse effect on more tactical play involving a higher number of passes.

Dr Pooya Soltani, Senior Lecturer in Games Technology at Staffordshire University, explained: “Caffeine is one of the most popular dietary supplements which has been shown to provide benefits during exercise, including football. Studies have shown that caffeine can enhance attention, accuracy, and speed, as well as self-reported measures of energy and mood.

This shows a cup of coffee.
Twelve young football players, aged between 16–17 years old, took part in a series of tasks to explore the impact of caffeine on decision-making and passing accuracy. Credit: Neuroscience News

“However, the effects of caffeine on “higher” cognitive functions such as problem-solving and decision-making are often debated, so we decided to investigate this.”

Twelve young football players, aged between 16–17 years old, took part in a series of tasks to explore the impact of caffeine on decision-making and passing accuracy.

Participants performed five short (10m) and five long (30m) passes, as well as the Loughborough Soccer Passing Test which assesses skills including passing, dribbling, control, and decision-making.

The researchers then used a computer task to measure decision-making in different gameplay scenarios, with participants asked to determine the best outcome of ten simulated pre-recorded events.

The participants completed the tasks once after taking 3 mg/kg body mass of caffeine and once after consuming similar amounts of placebo.

The footballers were 1.67% more accurate in short passes and 13.48% more accurate in long passes when they consumed caffeine compared to the placebo. However, participants’ decision-making was 7.14% lower and the Loughborough Soccer Passing Test scores were 3.49% lower when they consumed caffeine compared to the placebo.

Negar Jafari, from Shiraz University, said: “While the short pass accuracy remained consistent among almost all participants before and after caffeine consumption, the performance varied in the case of long passes. Moreover, most of the participants scored lower on decision-making and the Loughborough Soccer Passing Test after consuming caffeine.

“This may suggest that more complex tasks with a higher number of passes might negatively be affected by low doses of caffeine ingested one hour before playing.”

The researchers, however, are not suggesting that footballers should avoid caffeine completely and recommend further research into its effects on decision-making in the game.

“During a football match, players must process various cues such as opponents’ positions, team organisation, and time pressure. Decision-making in passing is particularly important, where a well-executed pass can create scoring opportunities,” Dr Soltani commented.

“Our findings show that this can be affected by caffeine intake and coaches may find these performance metrics useful to explore in training. A number of parameters can be involved – the dosage of caffeine relative to body weight, the frequency of caffeine intake and certain positions of the players or their playing styles.

“For example, a slight decrease in pass accuracy might be crucial for a midfielder but less impactful for a goalkeeper.”

About this caffeine and decision-making research news

Author: Amy Platts
Source: Staffordshire University
Contact: Amy Platts – Staffordshire University
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: Open access.
The effects of acute caffeine ingestion on decision-making and pass accuracy in young soccer players: A preliminary randomized controlled trial” by Pooya Soltani, et al. Behavioral Brain Research


Abstract

The effects of acute caffeine ingestion on decision-making and pass accuracy in young soccer players: A preliminary randomized controlled trial

Caffeine has been shown to benefit physical aspects of different sports. In this paper, we aimed to understand the effects of caffeine on decision-making and the accuracy of soccer passes.

Twelve young soccer players (16–17 years old and 20.8 ± 2.7 kg/m2 BMI) completed the tasks once after taking 3 mg/kg body mass of caffeine (CAF) and once after consuming similar amounts of placebo (PLA).

For the decision-making task, participants were asked to determine the best outcome of ten simulated pre-recorded soccer events. For the soccer pass accuracy, participants performed five short- (10 m) and five long passes (30 m), as well as the Loughborough Soccer Passing Test.

Although not statistically significant, participants were 1.67 % more accurate in short- and 13.48 % more accurate in long passes when they consumed caffeine compared to the placebo (14.67 ± 2.74 vs. 14.50 ± 2.97, p = 0.34, g = 0.27 and 7.50 ± 2.84 vs. 6.83 ± 3.13, p = 0.60, g = 0.14, respectively). However, participants’ decision-making was 7.14 % and LSPT scores were 3.49 % lower when they consumed caffeine compared to the placebo (29.50 ± 3.09 vs. 30.67 ± 2.93, p = 0.28, g = −0.30 and 55.38 ± 11.91 vs. 57.48 ± 12.13, p = 0.08, g = −0.51 respectively).

In conclusion, while the short pass accuracy remained consistent among almost all participants before and after caffeine consumption, the performance varied in the case of long passes.

Moreover, most of the participants scored lower on decision-making and LSPT after consuming caffeine. This may suggest that more complex tasks with a higher number of passes might negatively be affected by low doses of caffeine ingested one hour before playing soccer.

Future studies are required to elucidate the effects of caffeine consumption on distinct cognitive and passing tasks.

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  1. I played ping-pong with a medical student in college, and he always won. The best score against him was 21-17. Once, I had smoked a little marihuana, and I asked him to play a game of ping-pong. He laughed, assuming he would beat me with a single-digit score since my perception was compromised. To both of our surprise I demolished him 21-15. As a medical student, he was doubly perplexed because he had a strong contempt for smoking anything.

    This article raises interesting questions about the complicated influence of substances on performance. I can imagine expanding this kind of research with a variety of substances performing a variety of activities.

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