The article, released in El Periódico newspaper

This article, in El Periódico.

Chronobiology is the science that investigates the changes that take place in physiological variables as a function of time. This science has described a series of biological rythms that repeat themselves over time, some on a daily basis, reason why they are called circadian rythms (from “circa diem” or around the day). Body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure or hormone concentrations are some of the physiological variables subject to these circadian rythms.

Most of the components of sports performance in general and football in particular, such as speed, muscle strength, agility, endurance, or the ability to carry out complex technical actions are affected by the circadian rythm of body temperature, reaching optimal values in the early afternoon, when body temperature is usually maximal. On the contrary, all of these abilities diminish if the sporting activity takes place when the body temperature deviates from its maximal values.

Therefore, it would seem logical that competition times coincide with the times of the day at which athletic performance is maximal, as this would be in the benefit of the quality of the sports event. However, this does not seem to be the criterion followed by the authorities in charge of establishing the times of football matches in Spain. If this were the case, nobody would consider that 10 at night might be the ideal kick off time for a match.

In addition to the more than likely negative impact on players’ performance, quality of play and the interest of the sports event itself, these night time matches involve a series of additional complications for the teams, such as access to adequate nutrition and alteration of the players’ sleep time and quality. Considering that a match that starts at ten at night finishes close to midnight, and that players have to respond to the media before and after heading to the changing rooms once the match is over, it is unlikely that the team can follow sport nutrition experts’ guidelines until well past midnight. There is no doubt that this will jeopardize the resynthesis of muscle energy stores, subsequently affecting recovery. Enough scientific evidence is available to state that nutrition is key to a footballer’s performance, and it does not seem that night time competition keeps this issue in consideration.

Moreover, finishing a match around midnight implies that the players’ normal sleeping times will be significantly altered, even more so if a team decides to prioritize post-match nutrition. The sleep-wake cycle is one of the most clear examples of the human body’s circadian functions, and the remaining circadian rythms are severely affected when this cycle is modified. We should not forget that it is during sleep that the body’s regenerative processes take place, i.e. recovery, and a reduction in the quantity and quality of sleep will negatively impact a player’s recovery. Although each athlete’s response to a moderate sleep loss is quite variable, it can be stated that repeated perturbations of the normal sleep cycle have a negative effect on a player’s mood state, attention level and performance.

In conclusion, it sems reasonable to think that night time matches imply a more than likely reduction of players’ performance level, thus affecting the quality of the sports event. Moreover, the likely alterations of the players’ nutritional habits and the perturbations of their sleep-wake cycle represent an added difficulty to their recovery, which could also have a negative impact on their adaptation to training and increase the risk of injury.

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  1. onur dincer


    My name is Onur Dincer. I am a sport journalist from MILLIYET newspaper in Turkey.
    I am making a news about away game prohibitions.
    In Turkey, supporters can not go away game to support their team.

    What do you think about this rule?
    How does this rule effect to players and supporters?
    Is this a good way for football?

    Best regards.

    August 6, 2013
  2. Hello Onur, I did not know about that rule in Turkish football. To assess the effects of such a rule, you would probably need to assess the “home court advantage” in Turkey in comparison with major European Championships (e.g. Spain, Italy, England, Germany). Another interesting aspect that you would need to evaluate is the strength of the referees’ bias in favor of the home team, which has previously been demonstrated in other European Leagues.

    August 7, 2013